How “essential” is the involvement of Physiotherapists in the Elderly Demographic?

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With the current climate of Coronavirus (COVID-19) raging through our communities, our television screens and newspaper tabloids are full of reports of Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressing the nation to combat this unprecedented global pandemic. In amongst it all, you might have come across a particular term used frequently – “Essential Services”.

What are Essential Services?

What is considered essential is a widely debated topic of daily discussion under current circumstances. Occupations that by default are considered essential are; Doctors, Nurses and Emergency services such as Police and Firefighters.

Away from the spotlight but essential nonetheless, are Allied Health Practitioners such as Physiotherapists – particularly their involvement in Home Care & Aged Care setting.

What makes Physiotherapy essential?

Studies show approximately 30% over the age of 65, experience at least one fall annually. [1] This is an alarming statistic! Awareness is required to the fact that falls are not considered a part of normal biological ageing.

Furthermore, research also highlights a positive correlation between falls in the elderly and lack of exercise. There is clinical significance that lack of exercise puts an elderly individual at a much greater risk of a fall, than an individual with regular targeted exercise. Falls, particularly the frequency of falls are considered a strong indicator of morbidity and lower quality of life. [2]

“ Physiotherapy & Elderly Well-being is synonymous – it goes hand in hand ”

If we begin to join-the-dots, it becomes clear the elderly require exercise and falls prevention, that’s where Physiotherapy comes in the picture. Physiotherapists play a vital role in elderly care and well-being. Their involvement is crucial as part of a holistic, multi-disciplined approach to consumer-driven quality of care.

How do Physiotherapists contribute to the elderly?

Physiotherapy aims to prolong quality of life, optimize mobility and reduce risk of falls, whilst working concurrently with the elderly to achieve their goals.

Behind the scenes Physiotherapists are ensuring that the elderly are cared for. This is achieved by delivering evidence-based interventions though; pain management, exercises and rehabilitation in groups or 1:1 as well as assessing mobility to assist in care for safe transfers and ambulation in the community and facility setting. [3]

Australia’s Elderly Demographic

Australia’s population is an ageing population, where more and more Australians are living longer and entering the elderly demographic. The Government now more than ever is providing funding to aged care to achieve the goal of quality elderly care and keeping the elderly more independent for longer.

Therefore a fundamental, ever-increasing part of the Government’s vision of the elderly population of Australia, will need to involve Physiotherapists. The Government has to recognize the effectiveness of Physiotherapy in the elderly demographic to a greater extent, and make it paramount that as many elderly have easy access and the necessarily tools to receive much needed, “essential” Physiotherapy services.

Author: Amol Londhe

References:

[1] Rubenstein LZ; Falls in older people: epidemiology, risk factors and strategies for prevention. Age Ageing. 2006 Sep35 Suppl 2:37-41.

[2] Burton E, Cavalheri V, Adams R, et al; Effectiveness of exercise to reduce falls in older people living in the community: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Interv Aging. 2015 Feb 910:421-34.[3] Gillespie LD, Robertson MC, Gillespie WJ, et al; Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 129:CD007146.

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