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What does it take for PTs and PTAs to effectively enhance the care provided to older adults? A new set of best-practice guidelines from APTA Geriatrics aims to help answer that question.

Now available: an executive summary of what the academy calls "guiding principles for best practices in geriatric physical therapy."

This resource offers the foundational practice concepts that PTs and PTAs should embrace in providing person-centered, evidence-based care. APTA members Michelle Criss, PT, DPT, PhD; Mariana Wingood, PT, DPT, PhD, MPH; William Staples, PT, DPT, DHSc, FAPTA; Veronica Southard, PT, DHSc; Kenneth Miller, PT, DPT; Traci Norris, PT, DPT; Dale Avers, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA; Cathy Ciolek, PT, DPT, FAPTA; Carole Lewis, PT, DPT, MSG, MPA, PhD, FAPTA; and Ellen Strunk, PT, MS, co-authored the guidelines.

The entire summary, recently published as an open-access article in the academy's Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, is anchored in six basic principles: person-centered care, anti-ageist beliefs, holistic assessment and evaluation using sound outcome measures, interventions based on best available evidence, prioritization of physical activity, and interprofessional collaborative practice. Each principle is accompanied by suggested action steps that offer implementation tips.

According to authors, the need for this resource is clear. "Given the paucity of perspective and guidance for physical therapy best practice principles, and persistent inappropriate underdosing of exercise among older adults, there is a need to develop [physical therapy] specific guidelines," they write.

The summary acknowledges that while its best-practice principles will require PTs and PTAs to overcome barriers to evidence-based practice — challenges including time constraints, lack of access to research, and sometimes-wavering organizational support — truly embracing the guidelines may boil down to a commitment to honest self-reflection.

"Individual clinicians are encouraged to self-reflect about their own practice and identify which of the … action steps are currently used and which need to be improved," authors write, adding that "clinicians with highly self-reflective behaviors are more likely to use evidence-based practice and take actions to correct current practice patterns."

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