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There is never a shortage of work in clinics that specialize in geriatric physical therapy. Older adults suffer from more diseases and disorders than any other age group. Caring for them is difficult, but rewarding.
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Geriatric physical therapy became a specialty in physical therapy research in 1989. Since that time, physical therapists have been working to understand the problems of older adults. There is a long list of problems that geriatric physical therapy deals with.
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Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, balance disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, incontinence, joint replacement, lung disease, stroke and osteoporosis are just a few of the problems addressed by geriatric physical therapy. Physical therapists have a whole range of treatments for these conditions.
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The types of problems faced by geriatric physical therapy fall into three distinct categories. One category is problems that occur because the patient does not use their limbs at all or does not move them. These problems can be resolved by realigning them with range of motion exercises and other exercises.
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The other category of geriatric physical therapy deals with cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Physical therapists have a range of tools that can be used to deal with these disorders. Exercise, aquatic therapy, electrical stimulation, etc. can be used.
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A third category is skeletal problems. Geriatric physical therapy helps people with these conditions, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. These problems need special attention because osteoporosis can make the patient weaker and osteoarthritis is very painful.
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Because falls are such a problem, treatment of osteoporosis is crucial. At the same time, geriatric physical therapy is responsible for preventing many falls because of work on balance and gait. Some clinics focus entirely on balance issues in older adults.
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Much of the work of geriatric physical therapy is not aimed at returning patients to their earlier state of health. The most important goal is to enable them to function at their optimal capacity. Doing daily tasks and living an unrestricted life are valuable assets.
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At the same time, geriatric physical therapy can have a profound impact on a person’s ability to enjoy physical activity. Golf is an activity that many older adults enjoy. It can be a very dangerous sport for older adults if they are not in the right physical condition to play. It does have many health benefits as well.
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Geriatric physical therapy can focus on physical training to empower older adults to play sports such as golf. This can build their strength in many ways. In fact, getting them to play golf will make them healthier both physically and mentally. Since depression is a growing problem among older adults, any help they can get in this area is needed.
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Another role of geriatric physical therapy is to help with rehabilitation after knee or hip replacement surgery. People who have had these surgeries may have a different way of walking. This affects their ability to do everyday chores and affects their quality of life. A physical therapist can help.
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Some people use physical therapy as a means of improving function. Others are referred to a physical therapy clinic by a physician to address a specific problem. Still others end up in a hospital or nursing home for geriatric physical therapy after an accident or illness. Help is available for all of these individuals.