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At-home Exercises Help People Get Back to Independent Living after Hip Fractures

Every year, 250,000 Americans break a hip, often after a fall. The injury can be devastating. More than half of men and 40 percent of women will die or have to live in a long-term care facility within two years of a hip fracture. Even those who get through the hospital stay and rehabilitation often return to a life of functional limitation. They might be limited in their ability to get up from a seated position, dress themselves or climb stairs or curbs. The good news is a new study shows a physical therapist directed at-home exercise program, which people follow long after a hip fracture, helps restore functional, independent living among these patients.

Published the week of February 19, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study was led by physical therapist Nancy K. Latham, PhD, of Boston University. Latham and colleagues taught hip fracture patients, after their rehabilitations, how to continue doing exercises at home. Exercises in the study were functional, mimicking things people do daily to remain independent, such as get up from a chair, climb steps, lift groceries and more.

The researchers found those who did the exercises three times a week for six months were better able to function than a group of people in the study who only received nutritional advice and no at-home exercise training. For the best possible results after breaking a hip, patients should continue rehabilitation at-home, long after they stop seeing a physical therapist, the study shows.

Physical therapists conducting this study went to patients’ homes for the first three exercise sessions to help with the exercises. Patients doing the exercises were also giving an instructional DVD, and even a DVD player if they didn’t have one. Physical therapists called the patients monthly to check in, and patients were asked to mail in an exercise calendar twice monthly to show they were sticking with the program.

These added features of the at-home program might have helped with compliance. In a February 19, post in Harvard Men’s Health Watch, Thomas Storer, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “Generally speaking, people don’t do as well with at-home rehab. Without someone to lead and motivate, patients have to rely on their own initiative to do the work. However, this study showed that most people stuck with the program over six months of home training — quite a commitment for many — with minimal supervision by physical therapists. Their model of in-home therapy has shown very encouraging results.”

Physical therapists are the exercise experts. For more about how physical therapists can educate people of any age about at-home exercises designed to maintain independent living and reduce fall risk, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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