World Physiotherapy Day falls on 8th September every year, and is an opportunity for physiotherapists from all over the world to raise awareness about their crucial role in keeping people well, mobile and independent. The day was established by World Confederation for Physiotherapy (WCPT) in 1996, and marks the date on which WCPT was founded in 1951.
Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals that provide services that develop, maintain and restore people’s maximum movement and functional ability. They can help people at any stage of life, when movement and function are threatened by ageing, injury, diseases, disorders, or environmental factors.
With the theme of this year, the role of physiotherapists in COVID-19 patients cannot be overemphasized. Evidence has shown that many people who have suffered from the effects of this disease might now be at risk of long-term impairment and disability. The extent of this impairment and disability is yet unknown, but it is clear from early research that these patients will be in need of rehabilitation in all phases of the disease – acute, post-acute and long-term. Rehabilitation is defined as “a set of interventions designed to reduce disability and optimize functioning in individuals with health conditions in interaction with their environment.” Rehabilitation might very well be a key strategy to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the health and function of people. Physiotherapists are essential to these rehabilitation efforts in all phases to facilitate early discharge, but even more to support and empower patients.
During the pandemic, there is a high demand for hospital beds in countries worldwide, especially during the times when the pandemic reaches its peak in a country or area. This leads to patients being discharged sooner than would normally be the case. Rehabilitation is crucial in this scenario to prepare a patient for discharge, coordinating complex discharges and also to safeguard the continuity of care.
A patient who has severe COVID-19 will go through multiple phases of care – acute, post-acute and long term care. In the acute phase, care will most likely be provided in the ICU or critical care units. In the post-acute phase, care will most likely be provided in a hospital ward, or a step-down or rehabilitation facility. The long-term phase will be when patients return home and are still recovering and will receive rehabilitation at community level
However, it is evident that older people and people with pre-existing comorbidities are at higher risk for more severe illness. Rehabilitation can be beneficial in these populations to maintain their prior levels of functionality and independence.
Courtesy: The Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP), Edo State Chapter