What Does a Physical Therapist Do for Adults in a Nursing Home?

What does a physical therapist do for adults in a nursing home? How does physical therapy help the elderly?

Physical therapists are experts at diagnosing physical abnormalities, restoring physical function and mobility, maintaining physical function, and promoting optimal physical activity and proper function. Elderly patients tend to have several physical ailments as a result of long-term illness, general health conditions, and lack of mobility. Physical therapy can help elderly patients keep their independence a while longer by reducing pain and improving mobility and functionality. What does a physical therapist do for adults in a nursing home? Let’s discuss this in some detail.

How Does Physical Therapy Help the Elderly?

Elderly people not only experience natural degeneration of their muscles, bones, and joints, this also makes them lose strength, flexibility, and balance. In turn, this makes seniors more vulnerable to falling, which may cause major injuries. 

Osteoporosis is a form of progressive bone disease that causes a decrease in bone mass and density. Unfortunately, this condition causes a lot of falls and leads to an increased risk of fractures.

But physical therapy and regular exercise can regulate the effects of this osteoporosis. Furthermore, the strength training and exercise that are done in physical therapy sessions also alleviate the symptoms. Physical therapy serves to preserve the mobility and strength of the joints. The therapeutic methods relieve discomfort via physical techniques and modified activities.

Physical therapists work with clients of all ages, including the elderly, in a variety of settings. They work with the elderly in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other medical facilities.

The Consequences of Ignoring Physical Therapy for the Elderly

Physical therapy for the elderly is important - especially post-hospitalization


In many cases, physical therapy is prescribed after a hospital stay. It is tempting to ignore this vital post-hospitalization therapy. But doing so can have serious consequences, such as:

  • Falls: Many elderly individuals are often weak and vulnerable to falls after a hospital stay. Therefore, failing to complete physical therapy after a hospital stay may lead to another stint in the hospital to heal injuries from a fall. 
  • Infections: Hospitalization offers few chances for physical activity and with this inactivity comes a higher risk of pneumonia. This lack of movement and restriction to a hospital bed may also lead to skin conditions such as ulcers
  • Diminished Strength and Endurance: Physical therapy during recovery can improve an elderly patient’s resilience during and after receiving it. However, foregoing these critical therapy sessions can lead to severe health conditions. High blood pressure, increased heart rate, and lower oxygen saturation may result in strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks. 
  • Less Recovery Support: Therapy sessions focus on physical health and wellness as well as recovery education. A good physical therapist will provide additional guidance to facilitate improved physical and mental welfare and increased quality of life. But missing physical therapy means foregoing such support. 
  • More Pain: Joints and muscles that do not move too often get stiff. This reduced mobility leads to more pain and slows down the healing process. 

Seniors benefit a lot from physical therapy by gaining not only more strength and balance but also greater confidence. Physical therapy is also instrumental in giving elderly patients independence and helping them to be able to master daily activities.  

Therefore, never hesitate to get the necessary physical therapy (especially after hospitalization). This will help reduce the probability of more severe health conditions and also improve an elderly patient’s quality of life. 

The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors

Physical therapy is critical for a successful recovery by increasing their strength, flexibility, and mobility. The other benefits include:

  • Minimizing the risk of falling: Physical therapy helps seniors to recover more quickly from a fall. Falls are one of the most common accidents among the elderly and lead to bone fractures and other injuries. A physical therapist will teach seniors how to prevent a fall. 
  • Lowering injury risks: Seniors will learn how to maintain their balance when they are mobile. This awareness helps to minimize the risk of injuries and any probability of re-injury. 
  • Decreasing chronic pain: Physical therapy alleviates any discomfort from conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis and may help to offset any further symptoms. 
  • Reducing prescription drug dependence: Seniors often require several prescription drugs to alleviate their chronic pain. But a physical therapy regimen may help to reduce their reliance on medications. It may also be a more cost-effective treatment option. 
  • Maintaining their independence: The faster elders can recover from an illness and manage their pain, the easier it will be to lead an active independent lifestyle for longer. 

The Main Types of Physical Therapy for the Elderly

Physical therapists are specialists in several types of therapy aimed at returning people to their usual lifestyles as soon as possible. The main categories of physical therapy for the elderly are:

Geriatric Physical Therapy

This category of therapy puts a special emphasis on meeting the elderly’s needs. Geriatric physical therapy helps treat conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, joint replacement surgeries, and balance problems. The specialized therapeutic interventions help restore mobility, improve fitness levels, and minimize overall pain. 

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Orthopedic physical therapy provides the elderly with significant benefits


Orthopedic physical therapists treat injuries to the musculoskeletal system and help people recover from orthopedic surgeries. The goal is to restore muscles, bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments to optimal functioning. 

Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy

Unfortunately, the elderly are prone to having a heart attack, other cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions, like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis.  Therefore, cardiopulmonary physical therapy may help to increase endurance and functional independence. 

Neurological Physical Therapy

This category of physical therapy treats the brain and body and this makes it a little bit different from mainstream physical therapy. When individuals are suffering from neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, or have suffered a brain injury, then a neurological therapist can help. They will guide such patients to adapt and accommodate visual, mobility, balance, and muscle loss impairments to complete activities of daily living (ADLs).  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Exercises Should Seniors Not Attempt?

The elderly should avoid doing:

  • Abdominal crunches
  • Squats with dumbbells or weights
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench presses
  • Leg presses
  • Upright row
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Long-distance running

How Often Should You Do Physical Therapy?

Many medical professionals recommend at least three visits per week immediately after hospitalization to get the most benefits. After the initial evaluation, the physical therapist will advise about the best frequency of visits.

How Long Does It Take for Physical Therapy to Work?

A great physical therapist will track each client’s progress to see their improvements in range of motion, function, and strength. It often takes between six and eight weeks to heal and this means that the average physiotherapy program lasts approximately the same length of time.

Get the Physical Therapy You Need

What does a physical therapist do for adults, namely the elderly? Getting people back to their routines as quickly and effectively as possible is a major benefit of physical therapy for seniors. Do you need excellent physical therapy? Then visit Moving With Hope to get access to experienced physical therapists and other medical professionals. Contact us today to help your loved ones get the healthcare they need to improve their quality of life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *