October is national physical therapy month and to celebrate, First Choice Physical Therapy held a fall prevention and balance screening event on Thursday at Edgewood Vista. From 1 to 3 p.m., residents could have their blood pressure taken and try a couple of tests to see how their balance rated.
Katie Glessing-Laskowski and Krista Becker, physical therapists at First Choice Physical Therapy, decided to hold an event like this to celebrate national physical therapy month. They also wanted to tell people about physical therapy and what physical therapists can do for people.
Becker said they try to do a different activity each year for physical therapy month and did a similar fall prevention and balance screening event about three years ago at their clinic at Arrowhead Mall. There will be another fall prevention and balance screening, similar to the one held at Edgewood Vista, only it will be at The View on Oct. 30. In the spring, First Choice Physical Therapy will hold another event, Becker said, and will probably focus on ergonomics.
A small group of residents enjoy each other’s company as they wait their turn at taking one of the balance tests Thursday afternoon at Edgewood Vista during the fall prevention and balance screening event.
To screen for balance, Glessing-Laskowski and Becker set up two stations in the wellness center at Edgewood Vista, along with a station for people to have their blood pressure taken. At one station, the person would walk at a normal pace from a chair to a strip of tape on the floor and back to the chair, then Becker would time the person and assess their risk factor for falling based on a chart of national averages for their age. The other station involved the person standing up and sitting down as many times as they could in a minute and then Becker would again match the number of times with the person's age and time on the chart.
If a person's balance is off, it could mean a variety of things. The person's medication could be a culprit, said Glessing-Laskowski, or the person's vision or level of fatigue because the person is not lifting their feet high enough off the ground when walking.
Some ways in which people can prevent falls include wearing your glasses and seeing an opthalmologist once a year, being careful of pets or young children scurrying under your feet, removing clutter, wearing shoes with non-skid soles, and getting out of bed and standing up slowly to avoid dizziness. Other ways to prevent falls consist of carrying a portable phone to avoid running to answer the phone, pacing yourself because fatigue can affect balance, seeing a physician if you feel weak or unsteady, and beginning an exercise program.
There are ways in which a person can improve his or her balance, though, such as through walking or strengthening the lower extremities.
"As we age, we lose flexibility and don't stay as active," Becker said. "A lot of times people become less active after they retire and become lackadaisical."
Unfortunately, there aren't many, if any, techniques people can use if they're falling.
"When people age, the receptors in the ankles, knees and hips don't work, so when they fall, they just fall," Becker explained. If she is walking with the person and the person starts to fall, Becker said she can hold on to the person to keep him or her from falling as hard or at all.
A misconception about falling that people may have, Glessing-Laskowski said, is that they think there's nothing they can do but accept they're getting older and will fall.
"Just because you're getting older, doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to prevent (falling)," she said.
Motivation is a big challenge that people face when recovering from a fall, Becker noted, and another is that they're scared they'll fall again.
"We try to build their confidence so we give lots of encouragement and set small goals for them," she said.