Though a common activity of daily living, walking is actually complex. While many younger adults may take their easy strides for granted, seniors often experience difficulties with both gait and mobility as they age, for a variety of reasons.
In fact, after age 70, roughly 35 percent of seniors have abnormal gait, or walking patterns. Whether a resident has a slowed gait speed or a lack of symmetry—or difficulty standing up from a chair or leaning—physical therapy can help him or her regain abilities.
Because reduced mobility can increase the risk of falls and, ultimately, take a toll on seniors’ quality of life, it’s important to be aware of gait and mobility issues in aging adults and to know how to help them recover.
Read on for a look at some common issues with gait and mobility and the role of physical therapists in helping overcome those challenges.
Common Mobility & Gait Issues That Physical Therapy Addresses
Aging adults develop issues with gait and mobility for a number of reasons, from certain medical conditions and recent procedures to use of multiple medications. It’s important to note that most gait and mobility problems stem from multiple contributing factors.
Some of the most common medical conditions and risk factors associated with mobility and gait issues include:
- congestive heart failure
- coronary artery disease
- fear of falling
- orthostatic hypotension
- sleep disorders
These conditions can contribute to mobility disorders by causing pain, deformity, imbalance, decreased strength, fatigue, diminished sensory perception, and restricted range of motion, among other walking problems.
The good news, though, is that through a comprehensive evaluation and targeted interventions, seniors can improve gait and mobility—and even reduce the risk of falls by up to 40 percent.
The Role of Physical Therapy for Issues With Mobility & Gait
Physical therapy is a key part of many residents’ care plans, as studies show that exercise and physical therapy are effective in helping aging adults improve gait and balance. The ultimate goal of using physical therapy is to maximize safe and independent mobility.
Personalized physical therapy programs can help residents regain their previous level of function and/or overcome limitations to their abilities due to age or condition. Through a variety of customized treatment modalities, physical therapists work with residents with mobility and gait issues to improve upon the following:
- strength and endurance
- balance and coordination
- joint range of motion
- function in the lower extremities
A physical therapy regimen may include a variety of approaches, such as therapeutic exercise, massage, and thermal therapy, among others.
While rehabilitation can’t completely reverse mobility and gait issues, physical therapy can help residents greatly improve their gait and balance and, ultimately, enjoy a better quality of life.
At Apex Rehab, we’re dedicated to providing the most comprehensive physical therapy programs available to help residents successfully manage their activities and improve their quality of life. To learn more about how we could benefit your SNF, call (412) 963-9698.