Geriatric rehabilitation is a medical discipline focusing on retaining independence and quality of life for older adults by helping prevent injuries and providing tools for injury recovery. Certain medical issues tend to be more common among older adults and outcomes can be better when patients visit a geriatric specialist who can tailor treatment to their needs. Some rehabilitation facilities offer geriatric rehabilitation, and it is also a service available through hospitals and assisted living facilities.
As people grow older, a number of natural aging processes occur. Many older adults experience declines in vision and hearing, making them more prone to falls. Cardiovascular and musculoskeletal problems like coronary artery disease and arthritis tend to be more common among older adults. Some people also experience cognitive declines as they grow older. This may cause people to lose their balance more frequently or have difficulty completing daily tasks.
One aspect of geriatric rehabilitation involves preventing injuries in patients. Physical therapy can improve strength, dexterity, and coordination. Patients may also receive nutrition education and other advice to help them stay healthy. The goal is usually to maintain as much independence as possible, as many older adults are at risk of depression if they start to experience decreased mobility and have to rely on other people for assistance.
Another part of the work involves treating patients recovering from injuries and surgical procedures. A broken hip, for example, can create a chain of events, leaving a patient bedridden, and geriatric rehabilitation can help get the patient mobile again while building up strength in the joint to prevent future injuries and make the joints more stable. This will improve quality of life for the patient and reduce the need for future medical procedures.
Some techniques people may use in geriatric rehabilitation can include physical therapy, massage, dietary adjustments, and gentle exercise. Some practitioners also integrate mental health into their work, identifying patients with mental health concerns and making sure they receive appropriate treatment like counseling or access to cooperative activities so they can build connections with other older adults in their area.
People who want to work in this field can take geriatric rehabilitation courses at schools offering physical therapy degrees. It is also possible for doctors to become geriatric medicine specialists and to integrate some tools from geriatric rehabilitation into their practices. Many nations have large aging populations as a result of improvements in life expectancy, and this field needs specialists and care providers to meet the needs of older citizens.