Keep Your Balance

June 01, 2013

Providence’s physical therapy services can help you stay spry and prevent falls

As we age, it’s no secret that our balance, strength and stability aren’t what they used to be. “Naturally, over time, our muscles become weaker,” says Julianne Courtenay, PT, DPT, manager of physical and occupational therapy at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. “Statistics show that as we age, more falls occur.”

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults 65 and older falls each year and, of those, 20 to 30 percent struggle to live independently as a result.

From home to the hospital, Providence Health & Services, Southern California, has the strategies you need to stay on your feet.

At Home

There are simple exercises you can do at home to improve balance, strength and stability, Courtenay says, including:

  • Alternate between a sitting and standing position in sets of eight or 10.
  • While sitting in a chair, extend your knee and foot so they form a straight line.
  • Perform step-ups on porch steps (with a railing).

Additionally, experts recommend fall-proofing your home with grab bars and non-slip rubber mats in showers, ample overhead lighting, clutter-free floors and firmly affixed hand railings and carpets.

At the Hospital

While staying active and fall-proofing your home is a step in the right direction, it may not be enough. If a fall lands you in the hospital, Providence offers a range of physical therapy programs.

Whether recovering from a fall or rehabbing from joint replacement surgery, every patient is evaluated for fall risk, says Karen Frederick, MPT, CPM, CLT, director of rehab, respiratory therapy and neurodiagnostics at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro.

As part of the evaluation, therapists are trained to identify fall risks, including medication interactions, inner ear difficulties, vision trouble and even improper footwear.

Furthermore, at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, patients have access to the Center for Optimal Aging, which offers a comprehensive fall-risk assessment for seniors that includes an in-home assessment.

At Providence Tarzana Medical Center, outpatient therapy is specially tailored to improving balance and strength in seniors, says Tad Norton, director of rehabilitation services. “We have a 90-degree saltwater pool built for therapy,” he says, adding that full, functional independence for seniors is always the goal.

“Physical therapists are really the movement specialists,” Courtenay says. “If you are concerned about falling, come see us.”