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Hydrotherapy improves mobility and wellness in aged care

Photo: Hydrotherapy at RSL Care Darlington
Residents and staff are seeing the benefits of staying healthy in the water with new hydrotherapy programs introduced at the RSL Care Carrington and Darlington residential aged care communities in south-east Queensland and northern NSW.

The programs, using on-site pools in the communities, aim to improve resident fitness and mobility, reduce joint pain, improve mental health issues including PTSD, anxiety and depression, increase resident motivation to participate in activities, foster friendships and increase staff involvement in activities.

Carrington physiotherapist Francis Maker worked closely with the clinical team and residents to select those who would benefit most from hydrotherapy.

“The residents selected were impacted by a range of different limitations including one in a wheelchair, one with osteoarthritis, one with behavioural problems attributed to disability and another Veteran suffering PTSD and chronic pain,” he said.   
“As the exercise programs were tailored to each resident’s individual needs, no two sessions were the same. We used a range of techniques, devices and exercises to benefit each resident and help them reach their individual health and fitness goals.”

The program at Carrington had positive results over the summer period from October 2016 till March 2017, achieving all its specified goals as well as some unexpected benefits.

“A resident who needed a wheelchair at all times and at the start of the program could not float unassisted is now able to walk laps of the pool. She was so proud of her progress she insisted we hold her birthday party at the pool so she could invite her grandchildren and play with them in the water,” Mr Maker said.

At RSL Care Darlington, in Banora Point, physiotherapist Kirsten Farrow also reported impressive results.

“We do comparative testing before and after the program, and we do basic fitness tests to assess people’s fitness and range of movement. While in the pool, the residents do a range of exercises from walking to basic aerobic activity, and step-ups,” she said.  

“At this stage with our residents we are really trying to maintain their level of fitness and flexibility. We have seen reduction in falls, improved balance and increased mobility, plus improved behaviour and better sleep.” 

A resident case study

Mr A is a resident living with osteoarthritis in the RSL Care Carrington residential aged care community. The osteoarthritis is particularly bad in his knees and affects his ability to walk and stand without assistance.

While his condition is not severe, the most troubling part of his osteoarthritis is the anxiety and stress the condition causes him. Mr A finds it difficult to cope with the pain in his knees and associates the pain with negative thoughts.

As a result of this anxiety he will withdraw from social activities and outings if he feels there will be nowhere for him to sit and rest. The pain also causes him to become stressed, and small changes in his condition can invoke dramatic increases in his anxiety.

Venturing into the pool and working with the physiotherapist on different exercises has allowed Mr A to rebuild his strength without damaging his joints. The increase in physical activity has allowed him to lose weight over the summer period which has taken strain off his joints.

Staff have reported improvements in his overall mood and improved social relationships around the site. He now regularly also attends the Men’s Club on Fridays after his swim days.

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