As we age there are countless medical conditions we need to start paying attention to, but one of the biggest dangers late in life is not a disease or condition – it is falling. A momentary loss of balance can have lasting effect on a senior’s ability to remain independent.
Mickey Steele, of Alton, has experienced the fears of falling and knows how it can change your life.
“For the last year or so, I have had trouble walking and was falling a lot,” Steele said. “I realized I was adjusting my lifestyle to accommodate the things I couldn’t do anymore instead of looking for a way to fix the problem.”
After seeing a flyer for a free balance screening OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center, Steele decided to see if something could be done.
“I am really glad I went. They used several techniques to help me identify mistakes I was making,” said Steele. “We would work on a few things and then go out and practice. I was having a hard time with curbs, but I feel a lot more confident now.”
Carol Babcock, registered occupational therapist with OSF Saint Anthony’s, has this warning for seniors, especially those with arthritis, about the dangers of falling.
“Falls sometimes result in hospital admission, and often lead to otherwise functioning adults losing their independence,” said Babcock. “For a senior with arthritis, especially one who lives alone, a fall could be a life changing event.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that adults with arthritis are 2.5 times more likely to be injured in falls than those without the disease.
“Arthritis suffers tend to have decreased strength and diminished awareness of their body position and balance,” she adds. “In their attempt to avoid disease-associated pain and joint complications, arthritis suffers can start a self-fulfilling fall prophecy.”
In order to help people with an elevated risk of falling, OSF Saint Anthony’s invested in a newly renovated Balance Center and a $25,000 Balance Master® System. The system is the same technology used by NASA to measure crew’s pre-and-post-flight equilibrium – and only available in the Balance Center on the OSF Saint Clare’s Hospital campus.
“The advanced technology allows us to evaluate a patient’s functional abilities and assessment of positions or movements that provoke the symptoms,” said Babcock. “Based on the findings from the Balance Master, we design a personalized program designed to minimize symptoms, improve balance, teach compensatory strategies and increase functional status.”
The balance system combines computerized technology with task related activities in order to help users coordinate their mind/body orientation.
“Using a training device, like the Balance Master, allows participants the opportunity to get their senses in sync,” said Babcock. “Falls aren’t a normal part of aging and many falls can be prevented by making some changes that can reduce your risks.”
If you or a loved one experiences dizziness or frequent falls, be sure to register for an upcoming balance screening on Tuesday, February 16, in the Occupational Therapy Balance Center of OSF Saint Clare’s Medical Office Building at 815 East Fifth Street. OSF Saint Anthony’s therapists will be on hand to provide the free balance screenings from 4 to 6 p.m. - by appointment only.
For more information or to make an appointment for the screening, please call 618-465-2264. Space is limited.
“Getting old doesn’t mean you have to let everything go,” Steele said. “I feel a lot more confident walking around. And I haven’t fallen yet – knock on wood.”