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Before I get into this article's topic, I think it's only fitting to introduce myself properly. Maybe you already know me, or perhaps this is your first time here. Hi, my name is Martin Nguyen, and I am a practicing physiotherapist from Montreal. But before I became a physical therapist, I studied kinesiology, where I worked with individuals who lived with neurological and neuromuscular diseases. Now, I specialize in providing at-home physical care to my patients—my favourite niche—which is what we'll discuss today.
At its core, I'm writing this because my career has allowed me to see where disparities exist regarding patient care. I have been fortunate enough to work in hospitals and clinics and now run my physiotherapy practice. What astonishes me as I reflect is how the growing need for at-home therapy in Montreal (and probably elsewhere) is mainly unmet by healthcare workers. A shockingly low number of professionals take the time to give their patients the attention they need and where they need it most—at home.
I think all of us can acknowledge that the issue of immobility is prevalent, and we can all agree that it's growing. And to jump off topic for a second (but don't worry, it'll all make sense soon), I believe that COVID-19 has shown us all where the overlying areas of improvement are in society. Thinking back to the first wave in January 2020, the demand for click-and-collect and grocery delivery systems exploded overnight. As a result of this new disease, many were afraid to enter public spaces for the safety of the vulnerable people in their lives—maybe they were vulnerable, too. So, what happened? As restrictions were put in place, we all turned to services that could fulfill our needs wherever we were. Almost all shopping was done online, and e-commerce conglomerates like Amazon were making hand-over-fist in profits. Why? Because we needed to access services, this was the only way to do it.
So, why is there still a disconnect when it comes to physiotherapy? The same logic applies—people need physiotherapists, but they can't always make it into an office or clinic. Nevertheless, I believe it should be taken seriously since physical therapy is essential to the healthcare system. It can often be the difference between a full recovery and chronic pain.
At-home physiotherapy services are the answer. With my patients, they no longer have to worry about transportation costs, busy schedules, long waiting times in clinics, traffic, accessibility, or anything else that may prevent them from getting their treatment—it is all taken care of with a simple phone call. I've seen just how much this can help someone's recovery process and their quality of life in general.
This is why I'm so passionate about providing at-home physiotherapy services—it's a service that anyone can take advantage of, regardless of mobility issues or any other underlying factor. It allows for a more accessible, more efficient approach to physical therapy, and it helps give patients a sense of control over their recovery.
My work allows me to drive to the client's home or long-term care facility for consultations. I spend a considerable amount of time conversing with them and understanding the challenges they face at home while observing their surroundings. It gives us a great foundation because I can see their living conditions and formulate a treatment plan. And overall, it's a great, personal experience meeting the family and determining how we can help their loved one improve.
I must say, working with a patient and their family in their surroundings is a beautiful thing. But unfortunately, I'm sure many of you reading this have had a loved one sustain an injury that significantly disrupted their life. Whether it was a spouse who slipped on ice and broke their wrist, your child sprained their ankle during Saturday soccer practice or your elderly parent who fell down their stairs and blew out their hip. It, in a sense, physically pains us to see the people we love in such discomfort. And what puts the salt in the wound is that we often believe there's nothing we can do to help.
At-home physiotherapy is my way of giving families a sense of comfort during an otherwise difficult time. Because while they may not understand the intricate details of each exercise, they know that I'm there to help—I'm taking care of their family member as if they were one of my own. That's the beauty that I see in my job. But my care transcends the patient and me; it also gives the patient's family control.
I am currently working with a patient who sustained a knee fracture that required surgery, and I've been working alongside his wife so she can learn how to assist him when I'm not there. We've been going over certain transfers, such as sitting him up. And she's been learning how to do this without hurting her back. She's also learned how to assist her husband with knee exercises. The success I've seen with my at-home patients is fulfilling, to say the least. The level of care they receive from family matches that of an at-home nurse. Of course, no one can be there all the time, but at least now, a family member can help bridge that gap.
Working with patients at home also forces me to get creative with treatment.
How many of you have been sitting at home watching television when an ad with one of your favorite celebrities comes on? They're exercising in a gym with state-of-the-art equipment and a professional trainer. And as they look fantastic working out, they tell you, "Get off that couch! I lost 50 pounds this year. If I did it, you can too!" Maybe you buy into it and start doing home workouts, but the pounds just aren't coming off, or perhaps you scoff and think, "Yeah, right. If I had access to a gym and personal trainer, I'd look like that too." The same goes for physical therapy. So many clinics feature fancy equipment to target problem areas, but what happens when clients leave and don't have access anymore? They become discouraged because they can't make progress outside of the clinic.
I never use equipment because they don't apply to their lives. Instead, I always give them exercises that mimic their natural activity, such as performing steps on the staircase or using furniture at home. If a client is not active, I know flashing them with fancy exercises will only intimidate them when it's time to do it on their own. Simple is always better.
While my exercises may be simple, I'll be open with you; not every physiotherapy session with a patient goes wonderfully. There have been, and always will be, bumps in the road. Sometimes, a client is not on board with the recovery plan or doesn't see the value of physiotherapy. Some days I get easier-to-answer questions, such as, "How long will recovery take?" But I also receive my fair share of more challenging questions. Questions like, "Will I walk normally again?" or "Will I be able to play sports again?" And they're hard, not because I don't know how to answer them, but because sometimes setting realistic expectations for a patient can be challenging to digest.
But when I can build a connection with my patient and their family in a comfortable setting, the road ahead becomes clearer—even if it's just a tad. Because when we can establish a rapport with one another, we can work harmoniously toward their recovery.
It can be easy to let these rainy days get to my head, but physiotherapy has always been my long-term goal. I don't think I'll ever manage to describe the feeling I get when I can help a patient find a solution to their problem. The little triumphs my clients' experience makes everything worthwhile—small achievements like walking from the bedroom to the room next door. Small achievements like that make all the difference in their daily routine and quality of life. This is why we're all ecstatic when my clients reach a long-awaited milestone. For example, I recently had a patient who was bed-bound for two weeks; to get him up from his bed and walking with a walker, him now crutches, and seeing him walk into the kitchen to make his favourite meal, that's what I love about physiotherapy.
To wrap this up, I'd like to say that at-home physiotherapy is far from a luxury. On the contrary, it's an essential component of healing and rehabilitation. A patient's home is the first step to recovering from everyday life, and everyone could use extra support. So, don't let yourself be discouraged if you can't get to the clinic; physiotherapy is still within reach.
Let's ensure that every day in your life is a small step toward success.