Advice from an Octogenarian
"Don't get old!" I can't begin to tell you how many of my patients have told me this over the last four years. All different people, from different backgrounds and walks of life, admitted to the hospital for different reasons, all with one thing in common... they're over 80 years old.
I just turned 28 last month and while I'm a pretty strong guy, I've learned over the last four years that I'm not invincible. I can recall the first time I felt this "vulnerability." I was helping a patient back to her room, and about 10 feet from her hospital bed, she said, "I can't walk anymore!" She pushed her walker far out in front of her, her hips and knees were buckling and all I thought was, "You're not falling lady! Not on my watch!" So I grabbed the gait belt and with all my strength held up this woman who weighed close to twice my body weight. I dragged her to a chair a few feet away and in the process managed to pull my calf muscle. It was nothing serious, thank God, but I was still sore for a day or two.
It was in that moment, however, that I realized if I want to do this whole physical therapist thing for another few decades, I have to be more aware of my body mechanics. I don't want to be "getting old" before my time! Over the course of the last six months or so, our hospital system has purchased a few thousand dollars worth of lifting equipment. Essentially, most units now have electric Hoyer lifts that can be used to adjust patients in bed, transfer patients to a transport cart or a chair, or even help patients perform standing activity. It's been a great asset as everyone on the therapy staff and nursing staff has been trained in how to use this equipment. I applaud our hospital system and any other hospital systems or PT clinics out there that have the proper respect for the risk healthcare professionals take with their own bodies on a daily basis, all in the name of caring for their patients.
A few months ago, I read an article called "Fit After 50 Member Challenge," sponsored by the APTA. It essentially highlighted PTs over the age of 50 who were still practicing and promoting wellness and fitness throughout their communities. APTA members voted and the winner, Patsy Shropshire, PT, of Dallas, TX, was honored at the APTA Conference and Expo this past June. As a younger therapist, I say "well done" to all the winners and nominees. What great role models for our profession and what models of hope that if we take care of our bodies from the outset, our bodies will be there for us when we need them down the line.