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Our Seniors and the Pandemic: The Dangers of Deconditioning


As discussed in earlier postings, lifestyle changes during the pandemic have put our seniors at greater risk for being sedentary and less mobile due to having to stay closer to home. By being less interactive in the community, no longer running errands, and no longer performing the same amount of activity that takes place during normal socialization, they run a greater risk of deconditioning. They may notice becoming out of breath faster, needing more rest breaks to perform activities that used to be more seamless, or just feeling weaker by a certain point in the day.

Deconditioning is a complex process of physiological change following a period of inactivity, bedrest or sedentary lifestyle. It results in functional losses in such areas as mental status, degree of continence and ability to accomplish activities of daily living. It is frequently associated with hospitalization in the elderly. The most predictable effects of deconditioning are seen in the musculoskeletal system and include diminished muscle mass, decreases of muscle strength by two to five percent per day, muscle shortening, changes in periarticular and cartilaginous joint structure and marked loss of leg strength that seriously limit mobility. The decline in muscle mass and strength has been linked to falls, functional decline, increased frailty and immobility. (Gillis & MacDonald, 2005)

As we slowly open up to “normal” life and navigate gently through a cautious return to interaction and daily activity outside the home, it’s important to know that our seniors have options. Physical therapists are highly trained in appropriate intervention to improve muscle strength, improve conditioning, and reduce fall risk through skilled intervention tailored to an individual’s needs. These important interventions can be done in different ways: in-clinic, in-home, or via telehealth.

male therapist during telehealth visitTelehealth is a great option for people facing concerns about deconditioning, loss of strength or any inability to fully perform daily activities as easily as they used to. Telehealth uses the camera on your phone, iPad, or computer for a virtual visit with a physical therapist, much like you might do a video call to keep in touch with family or friends – no additional equipment needed! Through AccessAnywhere, our telehealth option, patients can be treated by a highly trained, licensed Physical Therapist remotely without travel to the clinic, unnecessary exposure to the elements, or sitting in waiting rooms.

telehealth visit with female therapistIf you or a loved one are in a vulnerable population or have concerns about COVID-19 exposure, telehealth may be a perfect option! Telehealth allows you or your loved one to receive the benefits of expert physical therapy care from the comfort and safety of your own home. At ACCESS PT we can evaluate and treat your concerns with the permission of your physician. This technology-based service is covered by Medicare and currently does not require a co-pay.