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Longboat Key Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 2 years ago

Falls: A pound of prevention

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If you want to prevent a fall, you have to know the cause.

Last month’s column on “Active Aging” stressed the importance of balance. I had no sooner filed it than, entirely coincidentally, I attended the Pines of Sarasota “Wit and Wisdom of Aging” luncheon and walked smack into a program being offered there: “Ready & Steady. A Plan for Better Balance.” Launched just last year, it is a comprehensive, accessible and much needed approach to falls prevention. 

It’s hard to overstate the value of such a resource to Longboat Key. 

“We respond to more EMS incidents than fire incidents," said Fire Chief Paul Dezzi. "Our No. 1 medical call involves falls.” 

For 2015, Fire Rescue went on 403 fire calls and had 1, 035 emergency medical services calls

The national statistics are startling, even scary. For example, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for Americans age 65 and up.

The most startling metric may well be that death from unintentional falls has been increasing rapidly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that deaths from unintentional falls per 100,000 populations from 2000 to 2013 increased from 38.2% to 67.9%; 82% among men and from 24.6% to 49.1% — virtually 100% increase — among women. Ouch!

The leader of “Ready & Steady” is Joel Amistoso, a physical therapist and director of rehabilitation services at Pines of Sarasota Rehabilitation and Senior Care Community. 

“Physical therapy has been primarily associated with treating illness or injury such as fractures. The focus is now shifting from treatment to prevention, such as this program,” he said.

The first step to preventing falls is to know what causes them. At the top of the list is simply age, with its loss of muscle mass, flexibility and endurance. Other factors include:

  • Fear of falling.
  • Dizziness due to medication side effects or low blood pressure.
  • Sensory issues including vision problems, middle ear deficits or numbness in the feet.

Then you have unsafe footwear and hazards at home starting with my personal pet peeve: throw rugs. Throw ‘em out.

What about your personal risk? Start by asking these three questions. Have you fallen in the past year? Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking? Do you worry about falling? If you have already fallen even once, the statistics say you are two or three times more likely to fall again. Any “yes” answer means you are at increased risk. 

If you have the slightest concern about being wobbly, Ready & Steady is for you. It starts with an easy, free assessment. You fill out the questionnaire, do a simple Timed Up and Go test and get checked out on a state-of the-art BIODEX Balance System machine.

If results indicate you are at risk, consultation with your doctor will determine the best course of action. That could range from tai chi or similar classes to medication adjustment ,to the Ready & Steady physical therapy program, which typically consists of two to three sessions per week for three to four weeks.  It all takes place on the Pines of Sarasota campus on Orange Avenue at 12th street in Sarasota. There is no cost for the assessment and most private and Medicare insurances cover balance therapies.  

While Pines of Sarasota has been known as nursing home — a last resort placement for the aged and frail, if you will  — it has grown to become a multifaceted rehabilitation and senior care community with extensive outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation capabilities and a rehab staff of 19 professionals. You can schedule your assessment and get any questions answered by calling 941-552-1882.   

Falls are costly and painful and, according to the CDC, 50% of them are preventable. That’s what Ready & Steady is all about, and it works. Eighty percent of participants show measurable improvement after completing the program.

Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals I and II, SCF “Active Aging,” and Power Pilates Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. E-mail her [email protected]. ​

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