Safe at Home: How a Physical Therapist Can Help You Age in Place

Millions of aging Americans want to live in their own home for as long as possible but need help making it safer and more accessible. Others, returning home after a hospitalization or surgery, may have challenges getting around or need special accommodations. These are just a few of the reasons that LifeCare Advocates now offers enhanced services for our clients who want to improve or maintain their level of mobility and safety.

In January we welcomed Cheryl Walsh, MPT, a licensed physical therapist, to our in-home care team. In conjunction with our Care Management Services, Cheryl’s expertise will help our clients reach their goals for aging in place, or help them achieve the best possible outcome after a fall or hospitalization.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) notes, “Physical therapists (PTs) are highly trained health care professionals, with an expertise in movement and exercise. Their skills and knowledge base are essential when dealing with the complexities of aging.”

Physical therapy isn’t just for recovery

Successful aging in place depends on putting safety first – especially to prevent falls. According to the NCOA, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.”

Most of us think of physical therapists as professionals who would help us recover after an injury. But their expertise with the human body and its movement can also help older people prevent injury. By teaching the client customized exercises that help improve their strength, endurance and flexibility, a PT can help an older person not only avoid falling in the first place, but also recover faster if they are injured.

For those who are returning home after a fall or hospitalization, a physical therapist can help by:

  • Coordinating with the hospital and home care professionals to ensure the client can return home safely and maintain their mobility.
  • Training the client and caregivers in fall prevention.
  • Training caregivers in safe mobility and exercise programs.

Home modifications

With Cheryl’s expertise, people who want to age in place can also learn about the home modifications they might need to make to ensure their safety and ease of mobility. Cheryl can tour the home and make recommendations, which might range from simply re-arranging the furniture or installing safety bars in the bathroom, to larger projects such as adding wheelchair ramps and widening doorways. If the client decides to act on the recommendations, LifeCare Advocates will arrange to have the work completed.

There are many benefits of remaining in our own homes as we age. We’re in the place we know, surrounded by our belongings and memories. We may be close to family or long-time friends, not to mention the community activities that give us enjoyment and fulfillment. With the right planning and care, most of us can age in place safely and comfortably.