Karen Middleton, CEO of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, considers how physiotherapy helps care home residents to age well and has a role to play in keeping your staff fit as well.

“The modern physiotherapist has a very broad range of skills and this is demonstrated in care homes perhaps as clearly as any setting.

Most people will be aware of the treatment that is delivered to people after illness or injury.

Physiotherapists provide rehabilitation following a stroke or other serious illness and ongoing treatment for people with long-term conditions, such as arthritis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Often there will be more than one such condition, so physiotherapists use their expertise to draw up a programme of care that helps residents maintain a level of mobility and function.

Physiotherapists also play an essential role in delivering the National Dementia Strategy and there is evidence to show that these interventions reduce the risk of developing the disease, or work to delay the onset and progression of it.

As an example, physiotherapists have the knowledge and skills to identify and treat pain, which many people with dementia have difficulty expressing.

They also provide essential support and education to care home staff and relatives.

The work done by physiotherapists in care homes is not just about providing treatment, however – their role in preventing future ill-health is every bit as important and brings benefits for residents’ physical and mental wellbeing.

Physiotherapists provide advice on the safe ways to exercise at any age, and lead classes that give residents the opportunity to get some physical activity into their weekly routine.

This helps people manage a long-term condition to prevent it from worsening to a point that it requires a hospital admission.

It improves cardiovascular health and keeps the bones, joints and muscles in good working order.

And exercise classes are also shown to reduce the chances of a fall by maintaining muscle strength and improving balance.

Since more than a third of people aged over 65 suffer one or more falls a year, the benefits of this work in a care home are obvious.

Physiotherapy doesn’t just need to be available to residents, however.

An additional role physiotherapists can play in care homes is to provide occupational health services for staff.

Sickness absence can ruin working lives and is expensive for employers because of lower productivity and higher costs. In care homes, it can also be a problem when residents have built up a relationship with staff.

Physiotherapists keep people fit for work and identify any changes that need to be made to the working patterns or the facility to ensure residents receive a continuity of care.

Anyone involved in the care sector – be it as a manager, employee, resident or relative – will know that extraordinary medical advances are keeping people alive longer than ever.

What physiotherapists do – particularly in care homes – is to help people make the most of those additional years by keeping them active, mobile and well.”

For more information on physiotherapy, advice on safe exercising for older people, and details of how to access services, visit www.csp.org.uk.

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