3 Guidelines for Introducing Aquatics to Your Geriatric Patients

3 Guidelines for Introducing Aquatics to Your Geriatric Patients

The following blog post has been summarized from the recent article published in the February 2014 issue of Advance for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine, “Tangible Outcomes, Intangible Results,” by Nick Drey, MS. Nick Drey is the Wellness Director at Walnut Ridge at Clive Senior Community in Clive, IA, which is also home to a HydroWorx 1200 Series pool

“Getting older patients into the water can provide renewed independence and a sense of pride.” – Nick Drey

As the number of people who are 65 and older living in the United States is increasing, there is a growing need for geriatric wellness and rehabilitation programs.

While aging adults find great success in warm water therapy, it’s important to recognize the special requirements for treating older patients rather than the younger generation. Therapists can then communicate realistic outcomes and implement safe and effective protocols.

Drey offers that “by taking advantage of water’s natural hydrostatic properties, as well as its buoyancy, the physical therapist can help a patient safely and comfortably perform prescribed exercises without a fear of increased pain or falling.” (page 15) The properties of water, offer greater capabilities to an aging adult than land based exercises.”

Since many geriatric patients have never experienced the use of aquatic therapy, the physical therapist must be able to instruct and carefully guide the patient through the session.

Guidelines for Introducing Aquatics to an older patient who has never used water therapy:

  1. Make sure the patient feels comfortable getting in and out of the pool. If the pool has an adjustable depth floor inform them of the benefits of being able to be lowered into the water, either by walking directly onto the pool floor without stairs or being wheeled on in a wheelchair. If there is no adjustable floor, make sure that they are aware of easy entry using a chair lift or large comfortable stairs with a handrail.
  2. Begin the water therapy session slowly and gradually. You gently want to lead the patient through a variety of motions, individually addressing their needs.
  3. Slowly progress improvements found in the water to land based activities. After weeks of performing aquatic therapy the patient and the aquatic therapist will see improvements that can regularly translate to land-base movements to increase the patients level of independence.

Not only are the tangible outcomes a joy to experience, but the intangible results are just as rewarding, being able to witness the excitement and joy that is being brought to patients and their families, hearing about all the success they have made. The emotional aspect of experiencing aquatic therapy keeps the patient striving to continue to become healthier.

Download the Senior Living Information Sheet: Why Water Worx!

Warm water therapy offers an effective way to combat falls and provides a valuable benefit to a facility’s bottom line. In this tip sheet, you will learn the impact of how water worx for your community, including: therapy services, falls reduction and wellness programs. Learn why warm water therapy is essential for aging patients’ health and your community’s success. Click here to download.


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