physical and cognitive therapies for seniors

Although aging is a natural and inevitable process, it poses serious challenges to both individuals and their families. That may be because as adults approach seniority, they are likely to experience health issues and mental stress. They need additional support for their daily living in the form of home healthcare services. This is likely as most adults have to deal with frailty and medical conditions, experience physical constraints or feel isolated or tense while they make the transition to retirement.

Home services offer assistance by providing adequate senior care at home to make relevant adjustments and ease the transition. Also, older adults experience depression and anxiety as they struggle to cope up with age-related changes or have disabilities. Therapy for senior citizens aims at bridging this gap by providing a multi-disciplinary approach to help them in overcoming these hurdles by providing a customized intervention. Some forms of therapy may include-

  • Physical Therapy or physiotherapy at home to restore independence and overcome mobility constraints
  • Cognitive Therapy to modify abnormal thinking and unwanted behaviour patterns
  • Speech and Language Therapy to improve communication skills in seniors
  • Occupational Therapy helps in elderly patients to do everyday activities like eating, bathing, grooming and walking
  • Counselling Therapy to deal with emotional problems

Let us discuss Physical and Cognitive Therapies here.

Physical Therapy

It is easy to associate the loss of freedom in seniors as a natural outcome of the aging process. However, physical therapy helps in ensuring that independence and self-confidence are maintained for a longer period of time so that elders can remain safe and retain their mobility to the extent possible. Trained therapists help elders in doing several activities and exercise like stretching, bending, balancing, deep breathing and cycling that help in restoring their bone health and muscle strength.

Physical therapy thus offers multiple benefits as it aids in

  • Prevention of falls and injuries by assisting elders in strengthening their balancing and coordination skills
  • Managing chronic pain that acts as a severe detriment for seniors to lead a normal life. A combination of treatments including the application of heat and cold packs, massages, exercises, diet and certain medications may be involved in this multi-faceted approach to reduce the pain symptoms. This is done under the close monitoring of the physical therapist and is tailored well to the patient’s needs and health conditions.
  • Enhancing cognitive abilities as physical activities increase mental alertness and concentration thereby slowing down the progress of cognitive decline that is largely predominant in the elderly population.
  • Modifying the living environment and surroundings by identifying and eliminating the potential hazards that can threaten the safety of seniors. Therapists also suggest alternative and simplified approaches to various activities that may be cumbersome for them.
  • Expediting recovery process in case of injury, surgery or hospitalization. That is achieved by exercising excellent compassion, care and personal services. Physical therapists also assist seniors in choosing and using the right medical equipment like nebulizers, walkers, wheelchairs and clinical aids for overcoming sleep problems like Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices.
  • Encouraging an active lifestyle that promotes overall fitness and well-being and also encourages socialization. By doing this, seniors escape from isolation, anxiety, depression and other related mental health issues.

Cognitive Therapy

This form of therapy incorporates a structured psychological method to specifically cater to depressive and anxiety disorders in elderly patients. Specific adaptations of this therapy may be required when treating depressed and medically ill patients. This therapeutic process helps the seniors to identify their internal thoughts when they feel distressed and assists them to remove the dysfunctional ones. This is done by using behavioural techniques to make functional modifications in behaviour, regulate feelings and emotional outbursts and ensure proper cognitive restructuring. The therapists work collaboratively with the patients to modify the underlying harmful disbeliefs to create long-term behavioural improvements. Cognitive therapy is very useful for seniors with dementia, insomnia, Alzheimer’s disease, delirium, depression and behavioural concerns like aggression, wandering and unwanted motor activities.

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