Research shows that as few as 35 percent of physical therapy patients adhere to their prescribed home exercise program. You know the work patients put in at home is just as important, if not more, than the work they put in at your clinic. Factors that influence whether your patients will adhere to their programs include time constraints, lack of motivation, or just forgetfulness.
How can you keep patients committed to their physical therapy plan? Here are four ideas.
Earn Their Trust
Your patients come to you for pain relief, so earning their trust is vital for the success of their treatment, as well as whether they adhere to their home exercise program. After all, if a patient respects your professional opinion, he or she will be more likely to follow your advice. Build trust by telling them about who you are and ask them about their life outside of physical therapy. Do they work? Have any hobbies? Do they have kids or pets? In addition to building trust, getting the patient to talk about themselves can help take their mind off their pain.
Set Small, Achievable Goals
Whether it’s painting your entire house or running a marathon, thinking about the big picture can overwhelm you and easily knock you off your path for achieving your goal. The same idea applies to a physical therapy regimen. You’ve got big, long-term goals for your patient, but instead of presenting them as long-term goals, break up the goals into smaller goals. Doing this makes it easier for the patient to measure his or her progress and it gives them more endurance to reach the big-picture goal. Offer your patients weekly goals so they can easily know what they should be working on and see their progress.
It happens to everyone — you’re attempting to accomplish a goal and you’re not making the progress you’d like. Maybe things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d hoped or some other roadblock got in your way. Research shows positive and negative emotions are contagious. Offer hope to your patients whether they’re making great strides or they feel frustrated by their lack of progress.
Make the At-Home Exercise Easy to Accomplish
A Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association study showed that patients stick to their physical therapy exercise routines better when those routines are tailored to their lives. Give your patients the tools they need to succeed at home by providing clear instructions and the right equipment. Demonstrate the exercises for your patients and how, if they don’t have the proper equipment at home, other items can be substituted — a beach towel for a stretching strap, for example. Or, if your patient is a visual learner, provide him or her with a tutorial video link instead of printed instructions.
By getting to know your patients and their lifestyles, supporting them as they work toward their goals, breaking the goals into easily attainable milestones, and tailoring their at-home programs to their needs, your patients will be successful.