benefits of physical therapy for seniors

4 Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors in the Nursing Home Setting


For many seniors, an injury or illness can mean a long road to recovery. Depending on the circumstances, physical therapy is often an important part of the treatment process: PT can help seniors recover from a serious injury, illness, or after a surgery—and in some cases, it can even serve as an alternative to invasive surgeries. While PT is a vital piece of treatment in any of these cases, it is a demanding process that is often difficult for seniors to take part in within their homes or at an outpatient facility. Care in a nursing home setting minimizes these difficulties, making PT more accessible to those who need it and allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of physical therapy for seniors.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors in a Nursing Home

Benefit #1: Convenience

Physical therapy is a demanding process; to get the full benefits, you should be seeing your therapists and practicing their exercises frequently. In an outpatient setting, this could require trips to the PT office up to five times a week! Even if you don’t need to visit so frequently, it takes a lot of time and energy to get to and from the office. For seniors whose condition has left them unable to drive, this is even more difficult. A friend or family member may take the time to drive you, but if that’s not an option you also have to consider the expense of a taxi, public transport, or shared-ride service.

Rehabilitation in a skilled care facility eliminates these concerns. Physical therapy is located on-site and care workers will help you get to and from your appointment times, decreasing the amount of time and energy spent on just getting to your therapist. In some cases, you’ll be able to attend more sessions per week because your therapist will be more accessible—and when you’re being monitored daily and exercising more frequently, your treatment will progress more quickly.

Benefit #2: Equipment

In an attempt to solve the transportation and time inconvenience, many therapists now offer in-home physical therapy treatment. This is becoming more popular, but it is not without its limitations. Much of PT requires special equipment, but that equipment can’t always be transported to your home. This automatically limits your in-home PT options to only those in which the equipment is readily available or transportable. This limitation is not as great in freestanding physical therapy centers, but the therapy provided is still constrained to the equipment available.

By making use of a permanent department within a dedicated skilled nursing home, you are sure to get the most complete physical therapy treatment available. Remember: nursing homes accommodate a wide range of patients with varying needs. That means that the PT department at a nursing home should be stocked with a full range of equipment to service these needs, including yours. A fully equipped facility will have all you need to receive the highest level of care available.

Benefit #3: Cost Considerations

Unfortunately, it is not always simple to get insurance companies to cover your care. Home health therapy, in particular, may be much more expensive and difficult to get covered than therapy provided in a nursing home setting.

When you stay in a nursing home, it is usually because something happened: you may be dealing with an injury, an illness that left you unable to function the same way you used to, or recovering from a surgery. Whatever the reason, physical therapy is typically built in as a part of your overall rehab plan, meaning you won’t have to justify the need for PT during your stay.

Benefit #4: Coordination of Care

Coordination of care is no simple process. Outside of a skilled care facility, you and your primary care provider (PCP) are responsible for coordinating the care you receive. Your PCP will provide you with orders and referrals, then you and your family are left to schedule appointments, figure out insurance payments and reimbursements, and get feedback from your individual practitioners to ensure everyone stays on the same page. You have to consider transportation, the recommended treatment schedule, and the availability of your practitioners—it’s exhausting!

At a skilled nursing facility, you are not working alone. While you may be receiving physical therapy, you are also likely to be working with other departments at the home, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, or nutrition. For efficient coordination, every resident’s treatment is consistently reviewed by an interdisciplinary care conference. Your conference brings together everyone involved in your care, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social workers, and more. You and your family are involved in the process, too! By bringing everyone together in a regularly scheduled meeting, you are aware of your progress and your team works together to effectively provide you with the highest level of treatment possible.

Ensure High-Quality Nursing Home Care

When recovering from illness or injury, a stay at a nursing home with a skilled staff including physical therapy can accelerate your recovery and allow you to resume your life at the maximum level achievable. By choosing physical therapy at a skilled facility, you receive the highest level and quality of care possible.

Are you considering a stay at a nursing home? To ensure you get the best care available, you need to know what to look for. Download your free nursing home evaluation checklist; it will help you ask all the right questions on your next nursing home tour so you can feel confident in choosing a high-quality facility that will help you on your road to recovery.

nursing home evaluation checklist