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Happy National Physical Therapy Month! What—you don’t celebrate? You might reconsider after meeting Beth Popolizio, PT, DPT, and our Training and Development Specialist. We caught Beth on a rare break between webinars and training sessions for a QandA about physical therapy, her career, and why she believes PT is vital for the overall health and wellness of older adults.

HCA: In a nutshell, what is physical therapy?

Beth: Physical therapy is about working with someone on their movement and how they perform daily activities. As a physical therapist, I help clients maintain or improve their mobility or, in some cases, prevent future mobility loss.

HCA: How did you get interested in physical therapy and healthy aging?

Beth: I became a massage therapist to put myself through college, where I was studying business administration. After graduation, I went into hospitality. Eventually I started investigating wellness and self-care and learning how much influence mobility experts can have on the caregiving industry. I went back to school to help make a difference in that area, and the rest is history!

HCA: What do you like about your work?

Beth: Physical therapy is exciting—it’s like being a detective or doing a puzzle. You spend time working with clients, learning about their unique issues, and then you get to put all the pieces together to figure out the best way to help them.

HCA: What do you want to accomplish at Home Care Assistance?

Beth: Right now, I have the privilege of working closely with Dr. Shadi Gholizadeh, Director of Memory Care, on our dementia program. I’m creating education and training materials for our Client Care Managers and working closely with our Client Experience team, which supports caregivers. My work helps caregivers engage their clients in activities that improve mobility and prevent future mobility loss in people living with dementia.

HCA: Is physical therapy that important in working with older adults?

Beth: Absolutely! PT is vital for everybody. Certain things invariably happen as we age—deterioration in vision, balance, muscle strength, muscle mass, etc. Over and over, physical therapy has been shown to improve mood, cognition, social relationships, and more. It can even help with medical conditions like diabetes, lessening the amount of medication a client needs. PT can help older adults with neurological diseases preserve function and independence, even as their disease progresses. It’s an avenue for maintaining physical activity, and physical activity has a myriad of benefits for everyone.

HCA: When it comes to PT, what challenges do older adults face, and how can Home Care Assistance help?

Beth: Getting to a physical therapy clinic can be a challenge. Many of our clients no longer have a driver’s license or it’s hard for them to get up and dressed and out of the house. For someone with cognitive challenges, scheduling an appointment and remembering to go is also tough. Our caregivers can provide timely reminders for appointments and transportation to PT. And if physical therapy is conducted at home, it’s important to have someone supervise and assist with a PT-prescribed program, to gently guide the client as well as help to avoid falls. We can help with that too.

HCA: Do you recommend any specific exercises for aging adults?

Beth: Yes! Tai chi is very well researched. It’s helpful in maintaining or improving cardiovascular fitness, and it’s the gold standard for balance. But honestly, any activity is good activity. Whatever movement a client enjoys doing, our caregivers can encourage, support, and supervise. In fact, enjoyment is an important piece of the wellness puzzle. It’s one of the main factors in neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to form synaptic connections—i.e., learn. Doing things that are meaningful and important to us are also crucial for brain health.

While our caregivers cannot act as a physical therapist for clients, they can support safe physical activity, remind clients to do their prescribed PT exercises, and provide transportation to PT if needed. Interested in learning how we can support your physical therapy needs? Visit our website to find your local office.

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