Physical therapy is an important component in a patient’s recovery process after an injury or surgical procedure. Most patients will receive therapy in an institutional setting, whether it is a rehabilitation facility, nursing home, hospital, or therapy office. However, those patients will also need to follow a home routine designed to facilitate recovery. Other patients may only be able to receive therapy in their homes due to the severity of their condition. For both types of patients, the physical therapy routine must be maintained if proper healing is to occur.
As a physical therapist, you will only see a patient in the office for half an hour to an hour once or twice a week. The patient will absolutely need to be practicing their exercises at home; however, many of them will be reluctant to do so. They will tell you they understand what they are supposed to do and then not be able to complete the moves independently, not be able to complete the moves correctly, or forget the exercises altogether until their next appointment. These are a few of the reasons it is vitally important that you make sure they understand what they are supposed to be doing, as well as how to do it, before they leave your office. In each session where you introduce a new exercise, be sure to review it at the end of the session as well. Ask the patient to perform the new routine without assistance from you to make sure they are doing each exercise properly. To encourage patients to maintain their exercise schedule, give explicit and relevant examples of how it will affect their progress if they do not.
In Home Therapy
Some patients will not be able to travel to therapist office to receive their physical therapy. These patients often need the most help to regain mobility and encouragement to follow through with the plan even when it is uncomfortable or even painful. When visiting homebound patients, try to remember that this may be one of the only social interactions they receive during the week. Take the time to get to know the patient and what they like and don’t like. Engage in conversation with the patient and make the experience as enjoyable as possible. The mind-body connection is very real, and those with greater physical restrictions may need more of an emotional connection to achieve maximum benefit from their therapy sessions. In home therapy patients will also need the same encouragement to practice their exercises when they are not with the therapist as those patients who visit an office setting.
How do you encourage your patients to follow their exercise program when they are at home? What have been the most and least successful tactics you have tried?