MedPro Blog

Advice for Travel PTs: Things to Keep in Mind When Caring for Your Elderly Patients

If one or more of your PT travel assignments has you working with the elderly, read below for some tips on how to work successfully with this cohort of individuals.

You may think that all aging bodies are the same. And you’d be right – to some extent. For example, many PT experts believe that everyone older than age 65 will have some form of arthritis in their spines.

Yet everyone’s body is different. And each of your patients will have a musculature as unique and individual as they are.

For example, some of your patients may be former (or even current) athletes. Any injuries they may have suffered as a youth or young adult now may be coming back at them in a big way as joints stiffen. Other patients may be recovering from minor or major strokes and will be working with you to recover the best range of motion they can. Still others well into their 70s or 80s were doing just dandy until a fall and now must regain balance and their strength. Other seniors may simply want to enjoy the simple things in life, such as kneeling for prayer or working in a beloved garden.

So the foremost thing to remember is that older patients are as individual as your younger patients. Yet another important thing to remember is that the main goal for most of your senior patients is to keep or re-establish their independence. It’s the rare individual who automatically accepts – or resigns himself to – a life of physical dependency. Instead, seniors, just like the rest of us, want to keep moving and functioning under their own steam.

Many seniors will seek out a physical therapist in order to keep or restore flexibility as well as retain – or restore – the endurance necessary to complete the day-to-day tasks of living.

It’s therefore critical that you and your senior patients together set goals that are realistic and will also give them the wherewithal to live independent lives as much as possible.

Some of the things your patients may be dealing with when they come to you could include one or more of the following:

  • Incontinence
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease

You’re also going to want to keep your patient’s family and/or caregivers in mind during the course of treatment. Family members or caregivers are critical to ensuring that the patient follows the treatment plan at home. A family member who encourages and supports the patient in doing any at-home exercises you prescribe can go a long way to ensuring that the exercises get done. In contrast, a family member or caregiver who doesn’t understand the importance of doing the exercises at home, or even pooh-poohs them, can go a long way to ensuring that your patient fails to perform the exercises without you.

So it’s important that you meet with at least one person who either lives with your patient or cares for him or her to discuss any at-home treatment you may prescribe in order to get the family member’s/caregiver’s buy-in.

Are you a physical therapist with at least one or two years of professional experience who is thinking about a career as a traveler? If so, don’t hesitate to contact a recruiter at MedPro Healthcare Staffing. Send us your resume/CV today!