Cochrane Summaries

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Physical rehabilitation for older people in long-term care

Crocker T, Forster A, Young J, Brown L, Ozer S, Smith J, Green J, Hardy J, Burns E, Glidewell E, Greenwood DC
Published Online: 
28 February 2013

Rehabilitation treatments may be effective in improving the physical health of older people in long-term care. In 2010, 7.6% of the world's population were over 65 years old, and this is predicted to increase to 13% by 2035. It is expected that this will lead to a rise in demand for long-term residential care. This has increased interest in ways to prevent deterioration in health and activities of daily living, for example, walking and dressing, among care home residents. Physical rehabilitation (interventions based on exercising the body) may have a role, and this review examines the evidence available. This review included 67 trials, 36 of which were conducted in North America, 20 in Europe, and seven in Asia. In total, 6300 participants with an average age of 83 years were involved. Most interventions in some way addressed difficulties in activities of daily living. This review investigates the effects of physical rehabilitation on activities of daily living, strength, flexibility, balance, mood, cognition (memory and thinking), exercise tolerance, fear of falling, death, illness, and unwanted effects associated with the intervention, such as injuries. While variations between trials meant that we could not make specific recommendations, individual studies were often successful in demonstrating benefits to physical health from participating in different types of physical rehabilitation.