Menlo Park Physical Therapy Provider Offers Wellness Approach to Senior Care

What is one of the most critical medical services that allows seniors to better age in place? If you guessed physical therapy, you’re correct. In one study, frail elderly patients taking part in a six-month program of physical therapy and exercise were found to experience 45% less disability than their peers! As a highly respected physical therapy provider in our area, Tobias Physical Therapy provides an excellent model for working with older adults.
Physical Therapy and the Elderly
Problems with gait, balance, strength, and coordination tend to be more pronounced with older adults. For example, muscle strength declines by an average of 15 percent for every decade you reach after the age of 50!  In our own work with Parkinson’s patients, we see the problems that balance and posture difficulties can create. The elderly are also subject to increased musculoskeletal problems – arthritis, osteoporosis, and injuries from falls, to name a few. From one third to one half of all seniors experience falls annually. Without adequate rehabilitation, mobility can be significantly decreased, and independent living suffers. Poor recovery from falls remains a major cause of nursing home placement. 
While millions of elderly patients have benefited from physical therapy, countless others fail to receive sufficient treatment because of Medicare payment restrictions and the inconvenience of traditional treatment regimens for older patients.
Individualized, Professional Care 
One healthcare provider in the Menlo Park area is trying to address these concerns through her own physical therapy practice. Robin Tobias, PT, ATC, MA, founder and operator ofTobias Physical Therapy, established her practice as an alternative to traditional large clinics. Now in operation for 26 years, the practice offers an approach that is ideal for seniors.
For example, patients are assigned a single therapist with whom they work exclusively. Tobias’s practice uses only licensed therapists, instead of the PT aides and assistants common in most clinics. Regardless of your age, it’s nice to know that you’re getting the most professional level of care possible. But to a frail elderly patient who has told his or her medical history to untold numbers of providers, having that single professional connection makes the process so much simpler.
Another aspect of Tobias’s approach to PT services is the focus on wellness and recovery rather than compliance solely with Medicare definitions. As Tobias states: “We try, despite the pressures of Medicare, to get the patient WELL, or as close to that as possible, and living a highly functional daily life. Sometimes that means going beyond the benefits of Medicare, after the cap is reached. We counsel our patients so that they understand the value of continuing care, and try to give people as much to do on their own as possible so that we can maximize the benefits of our time with them.”
With older patients as well as younger ones, Tobias Physical Therapy strives to prevent needless surgery. For seniors, whose recovery time can be long and painful, a preventive approach to more invasive care is of particular benefit. Wellness activities can reap major benefits in increased resistance to illness and accidents. Tobias has found that the use of the Pilates reformer, which works on strengthening one’s core, can provide a valuable tool in helping older adults retain their strength.
Tobias, whose healthcare career has included serving as an athletic trainer for the U.S. Olympic Training Center, is as enthusiastic about her work with seniors as with world-class athletes. And her expectations are as high. In the establishment of a recovery plan, she describes the importance of looking at everything from the ergonomics of a patient’s home to his or her desired lifestyle goals. 
When asked to describe a “typical” senior care experience, Tobias recounts a recent visit with a woman who had been referred for treatment of osteoporosis – specifically, leg and hip strengthening. However, when Tobias evaluated her, it was apparent that her hip and leg strength were perfectly normal. But her balance was significantly compromised, putting her at increased risk for falling. So treatment began with exercises designed to improve balance. Thorough assessment and close communication with other medical providers are critical to designing the right plan of care.
While Tobias Physical Therapy has never formally advertised its services, relying instead upon positive word of mouth, it draws individuals from throughout the larger Santa Clara/San Mateo Counties area: San Jose, Los Altos, San Mateo, Hillsborough, Woodside, Portola Valley, and beyond – all the way up to San Francisco. In one instance, a son even flew his elderly mother in from Germany for rehabilitation of her hip problems!
Tobias Physical Therapy serves patients of all ages. For those of us in the local senior care field, we’re grateful that its practice includes our area seniors.
For further information, check out their website, or contact them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (650) 323-3001.
Tobias Physical Therapy --    
Homecare California Parkinson’s Care -- 

InMenlo: March 16, 2010 - What Robin Tobias has never lacked is fans, also known as very pleased clients. They pop up on Yelp and get routed to her through strong word of mouth, not to mention physician referrals. It was her fan base, built over her seven years as head athletic trainer at Menlo School and College, who kept urging her to open up her own physical therapy practice.

The idea had been percolating in her mind when she noticed a ‘for rent’ sign on a two-story medical building on Crane St. in downtown Menlo Park. It was just a small space, so with a huge gulp – buoyed by her mother’s encouragement – she took the leap. That was in 1985. Today Tobias Physical Therapy has three times the space with seven physical therapists offering their services.

Robin credits much of her success to Julie Rodriguez, who is her practice manager. “I know physical therapy,” she says, “but I didn’t know how to run a small business. Julie does.”

Asked how clients who come to her Menlo-based office differ from people seeking the services of a physical therapist in other geographical locations, Robin was quick to respond: “So many of our clients are so focused and so specialized, in both their work and their play. They don’t want to hear ‘stop’ and are very pro-active about their therapy.”

What’s Robin’s advice for standing a better chance of avoiding her services all together? “Move, move, move,” she says. “Don’t stop moving and keep exercising.”

(photo by Chris Gulker)
(c) 2011
InMenlo. Used with permission.