Physical Therapy for Hospice Patients

Physical Therapy for Hospice Patients

Hospice care seeks to improve the quality of life for a terminally ill person whose medical treatments have been exhausted. Usually, these patients have a life expectancy of about six months or less, and the hospice program can compassionately help bring the patient to terms with dying. It is meant to be a comforting, caring environment for the patient who has been through extensive medical treatment and their treatment team has precluded a cure for their condition, and perhaps even living comfortably.

One growing trend is utilizing physical therapy for hospice patients, as it can maximize the patient’s functional ability and make it easier for them to move safely around their surroundings. Unlike physical therapy for those who are in the prime of life, physical therapy for hospice patients focuses more on providing comfort for their physical issues at the end of life. Some of the ways hospice patients may benefit from physical therapy is through providing therapeutic measures such as applying heat, cold, or massage.

Physical therapists work in a multidisciplinary setting with hospice workers, including physicians , nurses, social workers, psychotherapists, and trained volunteers. The physical therapist must be a team member who not only has well-developed clinical skills, but also effective communication to facilitate team interaction. They must be sensitive and compassionate, as well as clear in what role they provide on the patient’s treatment team in their final months of life.

The role of physical therapists in a hospice setting includes:

  • Pain management
  • Positioning to prevent bedsores
  • Aid in breathing and digestion
  • Energy conservation techniques
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Management of any edemas
  • Equipment recommendations
  • Home modifications

The hospice patient will have different needs as their health deteriorates. For example, they may need to help a patient who is unsteady to learn how to walk with a cane, as well as teaching family members how to assist with their balance. Later on, the patient may need a walker, and then progress to a wheelchair or bed. As the patient’s health declines, the physical therapist must treat the patient with the dignity and respect they deserve to comfort them and provide them pain relief.

If you are interested in learning more about ProFysio, please contact (732) 812-5200.

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