Resources / Physical Therapy for Hospice Patients

Physical Therapy for Hospice Patients

Dr. Andrew Mayo

Chief Medical Officer


December 27, 2023

Some may wonder why a hospice patient would need physical therapy. Well, it’s about quality of life and ensuring that patients are as comfortable as possible during their end-of-life journey. As part of the hospice diagnosis with a life expectancy of six months or less, physical therapy can play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for patients in hospice care. By focusing on maintaining mobility and managing pain, physical therapy can significantly contribute to the comfort and well-being of hospice patients. This approach helps in addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals receiving hospice care, ensuring their remaining time is as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy can assist in aiding mobility for hospice patients, especially when they’re battling back pain or conditions such as congestive heart failure or Alzheimer’s. It’s a personalized approach that goes beyond exercises, focusing on strength, motion and empowering patients to improve their quality of life during the end-of-life stage. More than just physical improvement, it offers an emotional uplift, instilling a sense of achievement and joy as patients overcome challenges, significantly enhancing their quality of life.

Benefits of Hospice Care and Physical Therapy

There are many benefits of physical therapy during hospice care. Some benefits may include:

  • Helping you change your position
  • Providing assistance with getting up and out of your chair
  • Assisting with getting you to and from the bathroom
  • Relief from pain, stress and anxiety
  • Sense of peace and relaxation
  • Reduced feelings of depression, fear or boredom
  • Feeling cared for, honored and respected

According to Nursing Care Quality, 522 patients were screened by nurses who were assessing risk while implementing patient centered fall prevention plans. Additionally, a two week follow up was included to the screening. During the follow up, 74% of the patient’s remained committed for gait, strength and balance whereas 67% committed for home safety. This shows that promoted fall prevention exercises and plans of care are adopted at a promising rate by older patients.

Role of Physical Therapists for Hospice Patients

When considering hospice services for a loved one, it’s important to understand how physical therapy can be a valuable part of their care. Physical therapists in hospice settings are there to ensure that your family member can move as safely and comfortably as possible.

The roles of a physical therapist include:

  • Focus on or support activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Focus of positioning strategies to prevent sores, ease pain, avoid muscle stiffness and even help with breathing and digestion.
  • Design exercises and routines to maintain or sometimes improve the range of motion for hospice patients.

As your family member’s needs change, the physical therapist adapts their care plan, always focusing on providing the right kind of therapy and support for where the patient is at that moment. Physical therapists aren’t just there for physical support; they’re also present to help both you and your loved one navigate through this end-of-life journey with as much ease and comfort as possible.