It starts with something as little as a cold infection, then inevitably proliferates to an elderly patient becoming dehydrated. A dehydrated elderly person is too weak to move and slowly loses muscle mass while in bed or sitting in a chair all day. Days of planned activities no longer are imaginable, and depression sinks in. This elderly patient is one of hundreds doctors see every year.

One particular patient I have had the fortune of becoming very close with is a prime example of a success story in physical therapy.

She seemed too young to be crippled. Weighing a measly 80 pounds, cachectic looking frail elderly white grandmother type, she was so sweet, with a wonderful smile. Her bright affect did little justice on her crippled body. Her knees were contracted back and her elbows were contracted and bent - after not moving her arms and legs from being bedridden following a stroke.

Even replacement joint surgery did not alleviate her painful joints. Unable to feed herself secondary to her upper extremity contractions, she lost weight and protein. Subsequently, her muscle mass plummeted to frail skin on bones.

This lovely lady was sent to physical therapy and inpatient rehabilitation. She went through three-a-day workouts, including strengthening, range of motions and flexibility exercises. She underwent occupational therapy to help her feed herself with special utensils and allow her to continue activities of daily living.

That very same sweet grandmother of a lady is now walking, feeding herself, bathing herself and has a much better quality of life. This is a repeating story with many patients of mine and other physicians who believe in physical therapy. It is very important if a loved one is declining to have a physician discuss “transitioning” programs such as rehab or home healthcare or inpatient rehab centers.

If you have any questions, please email me at runsinthewynd@gmail.com.

Dr. Justus Turner Peters, a family physician, is board-certified in family medicine. His practice encompasses the care of infants, children and adults of all ages. Peters also conducts ongoing research in the areas of childhood obesity and lower extremity injuries. He serves as the county health authority.