Physio and allied health stories

Why is physio and allied health so needed for older people? Read their stories (some names residents changed to protect privacy, other family members have provided initials only) Contact us to add yours!

Vincenzo's story - 80 yr old used to be a farmer- I feel 100% better since I've been having massage. Used to feel like I had nails in my back when I moved out of bed last year before I had treatment. (being treated still as of 1/10/21 4X a week)

Sally's story  -83 yr old used to be a teacher, mum of 5. I had a lot of tension last week, go go go. I have a sharp pain in neck and down the arm as well when I lift it. I fractured my neck. OH YES that feels better after I have massage. (being treated still as of 1/10/21 4X a week)

Billy's story- 68 yr old former musician. Words hard to find. Says feel very good when we treat his neck easier watch tv, look over shoulder. Says yeah very good when he has treatment, and "very nice". (being treated still as of 4X week)

Greg's story- 48 yr old with a head injury  Has a 9 year old boy and lives in a regional nursing home. Used to tell us to "go away" when first saw him, lashed out at staff and swore. Severe contractures in his legs. Now smiles, waves hello and has stayed comfortable and maintaining his movement, now has much more equipment and a better chair with regular allied health sessions funded by ACFI and NDIS (when he came in 2017 didn't have NDIS)

Stories we were told submitted to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs (published with permission and de-identified)

Well done and keep fighting. Please whenever you mention the words "Allied Health' include "physiotherapy" and "occupational therapy" as many consider allied health to be art and music therapy and pastoral care, Thanks P.C.
Allied Health, especially physiotherapy is essential to keep my mother-in-law mobile and active. At 96 years, stopping physiotherapy will contribute to her becoming bed bound and requiring more nursing. Pauline
Dear Mark Butler MP, As the wife/carer of a man who lived with stroke for 43 years, I want to voice my concern re Residential Care Allied Health Levels (which are currently minimal) - and NOT included at all in the Funding Model proposed for 2022. As a volunteer I now see residents being offered only "lip-service" exercises once or twice a week, offered by volunteers NOT therapists, and individual therapy needs being limited to items such as Hand arthritis pain relief -seemingly often ignoring the functional needs of the residents. This leads often to rapid deterioration both physically, and mentally. To now think that even the current very limited services will not even be including in the new Funding Plan, is totally contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aged Care. As South Australia's population ages, the future seems bleak. I ask you to investigate and do your best to change the new Proposed Plan. Yours sincerely, M.M. South Australia, 5011, Australia
Dear Michelle Rowland MP, As you are my member and I have my father in a nursing home I would like to bring to your attention the likelihood of the government withdrawing funds to the ACM which supplies health support to the elderly. My father as most residents in his nursing home need weekly physio sessions to prevent falls and podiatry sessions to prevent infection and lack of mobility. I cannot believe this government will take away from a generation that fought and built Australia in trying times. Not providing for our elderly and most vulnerable shows the lack of compassion of this government a government that will not receive my Vote if this situation goes ahead. Yours sincerely, L.J. New South Wales, 2768, Australia 
 Dear Jason Wood MP, I would like to bring to your attention the terrible injustice to our elderly residing not only in aged care but all over our country. Why is the Gov't withdrawing it's funding of Allied Health? Personally my mum need special care. She suffers from COPD, Blind in one eye, very deaf, loss of mobility and has on top of all this vascular dementia. What do I tell her when her health needs can't be met. She is already being fleeced with costs and there are so many like her. Shame on the Morrison Gov't but there is hope to redeem itself on one level. Yours sincerely, L.M. Victoria, 3809, Australia
Dear Josh Wilson MP, The Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model, which comes into effect from October 2022 will not specifically fund Allied Health services in aged care. This means that instead of hands-on treatment for pain, our elders will be given more pain medication – which leads to more side effects. Older people will fall more and end up in hospital more. This is the crisis point. If the government doesn’t amend the AN-ACC to include allied health, we will see a reduced standard of living in aged care and, we fear, more deaths. In addition "Allied Health" includes mental health services which are already almost non-existent in aged care and in fact for older people in the community. Retirement and health issues tend to isolate people and allows time to ruminate and to fall into anxiety and/or depression. For healthier people and cost effective services over 60, all allied health care needs government support. G.G.
Dear Mr O'Brien I am writing to you because I am worried about the upcoming changes to funding for allied health in nursing homes, which is due to come into effect in October next year (ANAAC). My mum is nearing the age where she might well need to enter a nursing home and she already has complex pain management needs. These changes suggest she won't be getting the care she needs. I'd appreciate it if you could use your position to advocate for the elderly. J.S. QLd
 Mum had a fall at age 92 and was discharged from hospital with a sling for a displaced fracture of the right neck of humerus. Sent home and within 3 days she was unable to walk due to an undiagnosed neck of femur fracture. Surgery and good, regular physio got her back on her feet and she lived to 98+ Allied Health is absolutely vital! A.S.

Having had my mother and mother-in-law both in residential aged care facilities, I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand the detrimental effects on the body caused by immobility which is well documented. If physiotherapy provides the possibility of reablement and pain reduction, especially in our vulnerable elders, it is something that should not be underestimated and should always be available to those in need. Please don’t let our elderly and vulnerable population down. M.R. Qld

As a General Practitioner with decades of experience in treating patients in aged care, I am dismayed at the proposed funding changes that could potentially deny residents access to vital allied health care services. I have witnessed first hand the benefit of early and continued input from services such as physiotherapy, exercise physiology and occupational therapy in rehabilitating older Australians and helping them to maintain strength, mobility and independence with the basic activities of daily living. If these services are unavailable, irreversible frailty and a higher likelihood of falls are the inevitable consequences. Not only does this loss of function and independence have devastating physical and emotional effects on the individual and their family, the financial cost of looking after a person with high care needs vastly exceeds the cost of preventing such a condition in the first place. An investment in allied health care amounts to a significant saving in potential acute hospital admissions and expensive nursing care. In the aged population especially, independence equates to dignity, and dignity is a basic human right at any age." JN GP

We all know that without direct funding for physio of mandatory hours then it will be overlooked A.C.
It seems counterintuitive that the new funding model, designed to improve the lives of people living in Aged Care, removes the mandated hours and funding for such a vital part of the care required to ensure our mums and dads are able to live comfortably and with reduced pain and increased movement. The current funding model doesn't provide enough allied health or scope of practice - but fixing it by simply removing it altogether is just creating a much bigger problem. I can't imagine how pensioners are going to be able to afford to pay privately for ongoing services. I think it's horrific that some of our most vulnerable are having funding cut so dramatically in an area that significantly improves their quality of life - and I would like to know how the government plans to address this gap in the AN-ACC. ML

I have been a CEO in Aged Care for over 20 years. The most frequent questions my admissions staff were asked by prospective residents and their families related to Physiotherapy. Will I/my mum/my dad be able to get Physiotherapy? Will they be able to continue their rehab that commenced in hospital? How often is your Physio visiting the facility? How often will they be able to see a physio? I would like to be able to keep walking for as long as I can, I would like to be able to build a bit of strength up again. How much will it cost? Will I be able to afford it?“ The new funding system and the legislated services to be provided to residents need to answer these questions for the most vulnerable in our community. A.K.

Other stories we received with permission to post

I work in aged care and i do see the benefits and impact regular physiotherapy has on our residents ,absolutely . DM

Disgraceful!!! My Mother’s physio sessions kept her arms and shoulders flexible and reduced pain.
It is common sense that allied health is essential to the wellbeing of almost all our elderly both in and out of aged care.
Why are we going backwards???? JL

Physio is SO SO essential, it prevents falls and accidents, stimulates the brain and is good for mental health! EK

When people go into aged care, they are often physically frail, it is exactly physio that will keep them going on to live longer lives. I have been advised they only do enough 'to sustain the rate of wellness the person had, when they entered, this is not even the case. The care is so minimal, it's an utter disgrace. And one of the 2 facilities my mother has been in is award winning! Makes one sick. The ministers should be absolutely ashamed. Imagine if the aged were so well looked after, that they could return home? So many people, if they could return home, with the help of Home Care Packages, could relieve the system. But how would the government know this? They certainly dont ask it in the census? Government seems bent on bandaid solutions. the ministers are feckless. Without physio the aged can easily deteriorate. They can die sooner. If the government cares about this, no doubt it will be reflected in their decisions around this. If they continue to cut aged care and allied health, please produce a list of exactly who they are. Thank you for this opportunity LG

I am a palliative care nurse. Over the years I observed the positive effect and increased well being in patients who received gentle exercise programs and encouragement to safely transfer from bed to chair. transfer bed to chair. Daily supervised walks with the physiotherapist improved posture, mobility and mood. These patients were often discharged to residential aged care where they did not have access to physio therapy or occupational therapy. Sometimes these patients were re-admitted to to palliative care for symptom management within weeks. The change in mobility was marked if they had not been encouraged to maintain regular walking and had become chaibound and prone to falls risk LB

I believe we need more minutes, not fewer minutes of allied health services for residents i. Aged Care Facilities. The residents should be able to access this alongside the other services they pay for within the facility.
Massage is a great benefit for many conditions and needs go be done by people with training. My parent has pain and extreme discomfort which is relieved by regular massage.
One example was an extremely sore, stiff neck & shoulder area which also caused radiating pain and headaches.
He was not able to explain clearly and ask for help. 
He had been screaming, groaning, kicking, crying, yelling take me to the hospital.
This had been going on during periods of lock down when the Aged Care Facilities were unlawfully banning family carers from visiting - even when the exemptions allow essential care visits.
No one told us family he was suffering.
They were brushing aside his calling & yelling as distress due to lock down isolation mental and emotional anguish - even though that was never relayed to any family members at the time either.
So all the Aged Care Facility did was give panadol more frequently. I relayed what I could over the phone, after getting more details from my parent. I asked for regular heat packs. I know the ACF very well, they would have done it once and no more. When investigated I uncovered could get inside the ACF, I investigated the source of pain & discomfort.
I told the Aged Care Facility to get the Physio to look. The Physio apparently did one massage. I was glad the Physio seemed to confirm the problem area so I focussed on it for a few weeks with heat pack & massage. Because I was able to communicate better than any of the staff, I identified the issue & fixed it.
The Aged Care Facility Physio does not have enough time to do anything recommended by the GP, Specialist or Physio's.
Physios don't have enough time to work with each resident.

I provide about 45 minutes maasage each visit. It provides pain relief, it helps with movement, it removes headache, it eliminates the that extremely uncomfortable physiological symptoms of anxiety /distress and untreated pain.
My parent has fragile skin, I was shown how to do this safely by an experienced Physio who I saw privately.
The team at 'Death of Aged Care' have outlined the flaws in the Government's proposed changes to Allied Health in Aged Care beginning October 2022. I support the analysis and solutions submitted by 'Death of Aged Care'.
Signed I. F. Victoria.

Physio and Occupational health is a very important aspect of health for the older generation as it helps them to remain confident to be mobile, muscle strength helps their bone density, the connection with another person helps them to remain positive and connected in life along with this regular soft tissue therapy and strengthening helps them immensely with the elimination of musculoskeletal pain SS

My mother suffered a fractured NOF. After 2 weeks in private rehabilitation she was transferred into residential aged care. We were assured she would be encouraged to walk and be supervised with walking as she had lost her confidence after her fall resulting in the fracture. She required physio supervision to instruct her to use her 4WW properly as like many people she pushed it too far in front of her causing her to lose her balance initially. Despite Dr’s recommendation she did not receive physio services. Eventually she became chair bound and became increasingly less mobile due to muscle atrophy. Her increasing care needs led to her being transferred to “ high care” where she became socially isolated in a locked ward with wandering dementia patients. She became chair-bound, depressed, increasingly socially detached til she died. Had she received individualised physio therapy with encouragement to do gentle exercise she would have had a much better quality of life and remained mobile for longer. LB