Maintaining physical activity after a fall, similar to the one taken recently by former First Lady Nancy Reagan, 87, is key to a full recovery, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
"For older individuals who have fallen and experienced a fracture, it is imperative for physical therapy to begin during their hospital stay," says Kathleen Kline Mangione, PT, PhD, GCS, and APTA spokeswoman. "Older adults who fracture their pelvis and sacrum (tailbone), as did Mrs Reagan, will initially have physical therapy every day during their hospital stay, primarily to maintain mobility and function." Following a typical hospital stay of 3 days, patients may be moved to a sub-acute care facility, where physical therapy can continue for some weeks. Home-health physical therapy often follows.
During the recovery period, Reagan will probably work with PTs on muscle strengthening exercises, improving range of motion, working on sit-to-stand positions, and gait training, with the goal of her regaining her independence, Mangione says.
"Like any patient, Mrs Reagan’s prior level of function will determine future functioning," Mangione says. "If an individual has kept active and maintains good nutrition, then their recovery from a fall will be that much quicker. If all goes as planned, then Mrs Reagan should make a full recovery in 6 to 8 weeks."
In similar cases of falls, PTs determine the cause of the fall, including accessing balance, muscle weakness, awareness of body position sense, and the surrounding environment. Once a cause has been determined, the therapist devises an individualized program of exercises and activities with an emphasis on strength, flexibility, balance, and proper gait.
To improve balance and reduce the risk of another fall, PTs may recommend stability and strengthening exercises; a formal exercise program; a walking regimen that includes balance components, such as changes in surfaces/terrains, distance, and elevations; Tai Chi (which emphasizes balance, weight shifting, coordination, and postural training); and aquatics classes geared toward balance and coordination.
[Source: Medical News Today]