“Thanks to physical therapy, senior adults can be more independent”

Llúvica Periche is a Peruvian physical therapist who specializes in physical therapy for senior adults with senile dementia. In this interview for the 3Love Inc. blog, she tells us how her vocation was born, what kind of activities she does with her patients and how therapy helps them in their daily lives. She also shares some tips for family members to help patients feel more loved and valued.

 

How did the vocation to specialize in the therapy of senior adults with dementia come to you?

 

It was born as a result of my internship. During my internship I could see that senior adult patients have a low quality of life, since they depend a lot on the family member, that the family member performs the activities for them. And thanks to physiotherapy they can be more independent, they do the activities themselves. So that gives them the satisfaction of being able to do their own things. And as part of the physiotherapy, we also make them perform movements, make them feel more active. Helping the patient to feel more independent, improve their quality of life, prevent some diseases and promote exercise is a feeling that gives us great satisfaction. That is what led me to dedicate my vocation to senior adult patients.

 

As part of your physical therapy work, what kind of activities do you do with senior adults?

 

We perform cognitive activities, such as doing calculations, addition, subtraction and other mathematical operations, also memory games and recreational activities, going for walks, doing handicrafts, listening to music, occupational activities, which are activities of daily living, reading and physical activities, which is very important for them, exercising outdoors, dancing and many other activities that are performed over time.

 

How do you gain the trust of the senior adults you care for?

 

First I adapt to them, I have to learn to live with them. All patients are different, so when I live with them, I can learn to have good communication with them. Then through jokes, games and the activities we do in therapy.

 

How can family members of senior adults with dementia help them feel more loved and valued?

 

By speaking to them with affection, love and respect. That way they will feel more loved, more valued. Family members also have to carry out activities with them, because there comes a time in dementia when patients just want to be sleeping and there are family members who intervene in their recovery and in preventing the patient’s disease from progressing further. They should carry out activities with them, send them to do some things, ask them to help them at home, so that they feel useful and, by feeling useful, they will feel more valued, more loved. And also the relatives should adapt to them, have a correct communication. There are some phrases that relatives should avoid, such as “Don’t you remember? But it just happened”. There are phrases that they should avoid because they create a certain frustration in them and, by not remembering, it leads to depression. That is the specific part that a family member should avoid in a patient with dementia.

 

There are many senior adults with dementia who are destitute or in poverty. How can we raise awareness in society, especially among young people, about this situation?

 

Yes, there are quite a few patients with dementia who live in poverty and, unfortunately, the economy does not give them enough to have adequate physical therapy, so that the dementia disease does not progress. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended that young people exercise, do not smoke, avoid excess alcohol, control their weight and lead a healthy diet and life, because if we have a proper diet and a healthy life as young people, we will avoid many adult diseases, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes. So if young people have a correct diet and a correct healthy life when they are young, they will avoid suffering from dementia when they are senior adults.

 

What would you say is the greatest personal satisfaction this job gives you?

 

The satisfaction it gives me is when the patient can recognize his family member, when he can feel useful, be independent. It is satisfying when they make me feel part of their family, when they don’t see me as health personnel or just a physical therapist, but they practically see me as part of their family. So it gives me satisfaction to help them, to make them feel very well, to go for a walk with them, to help them remember you, to make sure they are always active and not just sleeping. The gratitude the patients have for me is priceless.

 

By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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