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Older Adults - The Case for Osteopathy

Social care has been hitting the headlines a lot at the moment from bed blocking, lack of capital spending to decreasing provision at a time when demand is increasing. A consistent thread throughout these stories is the patients involved are the older members of society. As has been stated numerous times there are not always easy fixes for some of these problems; however, out in the community there is a broader network of fully qualified and regulated healthcare practitioners that work alongside the main NHS healthcare system who are well placed to be included in being part of any solution to some of these problems. Osteopaths and the osteopathic educational institutions are one such profession.

Osteopaths in the UK see over 30,000 people a day in a variety of settings from private practice, GP surgeries to community centres allowing us to play our role in the broader community healthcare network. Two such community based clinics with a focus on the care of the older adult are run by the British School of Osteopathy (BSO); Blackfriars Settlement clinic was opened in 2014 and is a community clinic offering free osteopathic treatment for the over 55’s and Lucy Brown House is a clinic situated in warden assisted residence based in the borough of Southwark close to Borough market and has run for over decade on the 3rd Wednesday of every month for the residents. With patients being seen in their own homes and treatment is adapted according to this.

One such patient who has benefited from osteopathy over the years is Mrs J, who is 98 and has lived at Lucy Brown House for 20 years.  Mrs J finds it difficult to get about, but maintains an independent life with a bit of help from various quarters.  She has suffered with various aches and pains over the years, all associated with age related degeneration, especially in the hips and pelvic area.  A three-weekly maintenance visit from the students at the BSO help with the pain, but most importantly, enable her to get about her flat and join in the social activities available at Lucy Brown House.

Another patient who has benefited from our osteopathy services is Mrs K who is 75. She was suffering from debilitating right knee pain, which was preventing her from going out from Lucy Brown House to do her shopping (a daily routine for her, as well as a past-time).  The problem started to improve after the first treatment from the students and she was able to go out to do her shopping again within 5 treatments.  After a further 3 treatments, Mrs K was delighted to report a full recovery, with no further treatment required.

As independent practitioners osteopaths have the opportunity to spend time with their patients and so can get to know them and their life situation. This gives them the ability to pick up any changes in a patients wellbeing or health and sign post the patient to the right service so where necessary an early intervention can be implemented. As fully qualified and regulated healthcare professionals osteopaths can also manage ongoing MSK presentations within the community and delay the need for costly hospital based interventions.

Being part of the community as a practitioner is not always about hands on treatment. For some of the elderly patients who visit osteopaths they themselves could be one of the 6.5 million carers providing care for a loved one or be one of the increasing number of elderly people who are lonely and isolated and a visit to their osteopath could be their only human interaction in their week. So as community based practitioners osteopaths can connect their patients with local services and organisations that can help give advice and support; this could be council run services highlighting a safe guarding issue or charitable organisations such as Age UK, Carers UK, Alzheimer’s Society and The Silver Line which is a newly founded charity providing the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK open every day and night of the year. Their specially-trained helpline team offer information, friendship and advice, link callers to local groups and services, offer regular friendship calls and help protect and support older people who are suffering abuse and neglect.

So in this time of an over stretched health and social care system lets not overlook the pool of fully qualified and regulated independent healthcare professionals already out there in the community providing high quality care when designing solutions.



Written by Matthew Cousins, case studies provided by Glynn Booker.

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