As discussed in prior blog posts, there are several different populations in which physical therapists could spend their careers. The following post will discuss in-depth the advantages to working in a geriatric setting. This blog post would be ideal for undergraduate and graduate students pursing physical therapy, and those who want to know more details on a possible field, such as geriatric physical therapy.
Geriatric physical therapy is the subset of physical therapy that focuses primarily on older adults, usually older than 65 years of age. Oftentimes patients will be living in an assisted care or assisted living centers, and the physical therapist will be based out of these facilities. There are many challenges working in a geriatric setting. It is not uncommon for some therapists to describe this experience as too emotional or intense. Therapists typically see their geriatric patients several times a week for months to years, sometimes until the patient passes away. While geriatric therapy can be extremely rewarding, and the patients can be incredibly interesting, students should be warned of the possibility of potentially losing a patient due to old age. This is less likely to happen in other areas of physical therapy. Typical exercises in a geriatric setting include chair rising and walking tasks to improve mobility, and balloon tossing exercises to improve reflexes.
With the population of older adults rising, geriatric physical therapy has seen a major increase in popularity and necessity. More information about this can be found by following this link. Approximately 18% of physical therapists work in an assisted living center, the more obvious work setting for geriatric therapy, and about 14% of physical therapists work in a home setting. While more therapists work in an assisted living center, geriatric therapists who work in a home setting, such as visiting different patients at their homes, make more money. Home health therapists make an average of $80,000, whereas assisted living therapists make an average of $73.000. This website has more information about salary.
Besides the universal Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT), those who wish to work in a geriatric setting should consider additional certifications. Physical therapists could become Geriatric Certified Specialists (GCS) or Certified Exercise Expert for Aging Adults (CEEAA) Helpful information about the CEEAA certification can be found here. Obtaining a GCS allows physical therapists to concentrate on geriatrics and gain new perspectives and experience in the field. Receiving a CEEAA would open a unique door for physical therapists; Not only could the therapists give treatment, CEEAA therapists could also focus on prevention. Exercise has been proven to slow the rate of aging and strengthen bones, so being qualified to manage an exercise program for older adults could seriously positively impact older individuals’ health.
Geriatric physical therapy is a unique and challenging field, with many interesting subdivisions. Students interested in pursuing geriatric physical therapy should consider volunteering at an adult day center or assisted living center. Many of these opportunities occur on-campus or close by and are welcoming to prospective students.