We are beginning to see treatment professionals come back more and more as assisted living communities inch closer to fully vaccinating residents and staff members against COVID-19. The return of essential treatments such as physical therapy, massage therapy and occupational therapy has been a huge boon to our residents’ mental and physical health.
The entirety of 2020 was one of the most painful and challenging times in the assisted living industry. Residents, staff members and their families were forced to drastically change the way we interacted, and we made do with several stop-gap measures that were not ideal but kept people safe. This meant canceling nonessential therapies or creating a virtual and socially distanced version of those therapies.
Our facility did the best we could to make sure residents went to virtual physical therapy sessions, and our staff members went the extra mile in helping residents with their exercises and ensuring that those treatments were not thrown to the wayside. Those efforts, however, were a poor substitute for having these treatment professionals in the room working with their patients.
Experts agree that treatments such as physical therapy and occupational therapy benefits older adults. Those treatments can improve cognitive function, reduce pain, increase mobility, manage vascular conditions and decrease the general malaise of growing older.
Our residence, Oakmont Assisted Living Home in Scottsdale AZ, slowly began bringing treatment professionals back for in-person treatment sessions. We started doing this after all of our staff members and residents were fully vaccinated.
It is important that any assisted living community do its due diligence before restarting in-person treatments. This means ensuring that your residents and the people treating them are fully vaccinated. It also is important for any treatment professional with whom you work takes COVID-19 health and safety protocols seriously. This means wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing when needed, and following state and federal guidelines.
Bringing back in-person occupational therapy, massage therapy and physical therapy treatments has made all the difference in the world. Residents are physically and mentally healthier. In-person treatments allow residents to receive hands-on procedures and manual therapy techniques. Therapists also are able to make more accurate soft tissue and muscle assessments when they can physically examine their patients.
The return of these treatment programs has shown noticeable benefits. Our residents are moving more frequently and reporting to us less about aches, pains and fatigue.
Just as importantly, we are seeing more upbeat morale in our residents. They are more optimistic and benefiting socially from the treatments. Residents are back with the people they worked with before and are back in a productive routine that gives them goals and something about which to be optimistic. In 2020, everything was thrown off schedule with the exception of physician orders, so it is a breath of fresh air to bring back those beneficial treatment providers.
Physical therapists and other treatment providers are a net positive to our residents’ long-term physical and mental well-being. Bringing them back into our home has improved our residents’ overall health and has given them a sense of hope that has spread to our staff members and our residents’ families. The return of our treatment providers is another reason to look ahead to 2021 as we try to put the pandemic year-plus behind us.
Mark Lawrence is the care home manager of Oakmont Assisted Living Home in Scottsdale, AZ.