By 2020, 16.3 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, double the current number, according to the American Orthopaedic Association, in response, physical therapists are preparing for a surge in older patients.
And while its true physical therapy helps the elderly reduce the risk of injury, enhance balance and increase long-term mobilization, physical therapists are also focused on an equally important patient demographic – youth.
About 17 percent of U.S. children ages 18 and younger have a developmental disability, according to the CDC. Physical therapy can help children learn the appropriate skills to function independently and ease every day challenges.
Pediatric physical therapists focus on newborns to 21-year-olds with developmental disabilities or who have or are at risk for movement dysfunction. Working with children and their families, physical therapists help set goals and strategies aimed at enhancing the lives of their younger patients.
Unlike other health care providers, physical therapists may work with their patients from infancy through adolescence to promote health and wellness, while providing support in a number of different roles throughout all stages of development.
They are not just responsible for providing exercise and rehabilitation guidelines – they must also apply clinical expertise by examining and diagnosing their younger patients.
And while children are the primary focus of pediatric physical therapists, collaboration with parents and families is essential.
Families are responsible for implementing the individualized intervention programs designed for their children. And pediatric physical therapists work with families to ensure children are helped at home, which according to the American Physical Therapy Association includes:
- Positioning children during their daily routines and activities;
- Using equipment effectively;
- Adapting toys for play; and
- Expanding mobility options.
When working with children, physical therapists are the source of knowledge for patients and their families – leading the team effort in recovery and development.
With advances in healthcare and childhood development, pediatric physical therapy is a growing field. And with physical therapy job growth expected to increase 39 percent by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for specialized practices, such as pediatric physical therapy, is expected to increase as well.
Additional information on pediatric physical therapy including resources, tips and information for patients and physical therapists can be found at www.pediatricapta.org.