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Better Balance

Better Balance for a Better Life

Clinics offer preventative fall programming on-site, local community

Over the past three years, Ascend Rehabilitation and Therapy Services has been striving to improve the balance of seniors through a fall prevention initiative.

The goal of the initiative is to create and facilitate specialized programming for older adults to help prevent and reduce the number of falls.

A program that started with a simple survey is now expanding to offer services beyond the walls of Saint Therese and into the homes of seniors in the local community.

Recognizing a need

Approximately three years ago, director of rehabilitation and therapy services, Amy Taylor-Greengard, and her staff had the opportunity to conduct a special interest survey to the apartment tenants of Saint Therese of New Hope.

“We wanted to learn what type of services they were looking for; what type of concerns they had with their health,” Taylor-Greengard said.

The survey revealed that tenants had balance-related concerns and many expressed a fear of falling. It became clear that Saint Therese had a great opportunity to enhance the quality of life of the seniors they serve.

Innovative programming equipment

The therapy staff got to work immediately and decided to create a new therapy program that would specialize in treating balance type disorders in older adults with the goal of preventing falls from occurring. The program would be available through clinics placed on both the Saint Therese of New Hope and Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake campuses.

As the staff researched different programming models focused on balance disorders, Taylor-Greengard recalled a balance assessment and rehabilitation system she had seen before.

The NeuroCom® Equitest system was created by NASA and was available to serve the needs of other industries that focused on balance-related services. The computerized system evaluates and tests an individual’s balance and gives objective data that can be used to create a custom therapy plan for each person. Ascend staff knew such a specialized piece of equipment could change lives.

With an obvious need to serve seniors with balance concerns, generous donors contributed an astounding $125,000 to the Saint Therese Foundation to purchase three NeuroCom® systems.

However, the staff not only wanted to treat seniors who had fallen, but also prevent falls from occurring. With this in mind, Safe-at-Home Assessments were created.

Making house calls

Safe-at-Home Assessments are part of an outpatient therapy program offered to seniors who may have a fear of falling or who may have fallen in the past. The assessment is given by a dedicated occupational therapist who visits the individual in her or his home to evaluate the individual’s dwelling and identify potential areas that could increase the risk of a fall.

The therapist observes the individual as he or she performs everyday tasks such as getting in and out of bed, pet care, taking out the trash and using the kitchen.

Once the evaluation is complete, the therapist may suggest an array of options to help the individual perform tasks safely including new furniture arrangements, adding supportive equipment like hand railings, or possibly, further therapy.

Occupational therapist LaVonne Schmitt described a recent Safe-at­Home Assessment that revealed an individual needed additional therapy specifically focused on building strength.

“The great thing about this was that the family and the resident herself recognized her limitations after performing the home assessment and readily accepted further therapy,” Schmitt said. “She is now ready to return to her home with improved safety, less risk and more confidence.”

Opening our doors

In April of 2009, Saint Therese opened. three clinics across the Saint Therese of New Hope and Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake campuses. The services are not only open to Saint Therese residents and tenants, but to all seniors in the community.

From April 2009 to December 2010, the clinics have served 364 clients. Of those Saint Therese residents and tenants who were served using the NeuroCom® system, 87 percent showed improvement from their first assessment to their last. Even though the Safe-at-Home Assessments have only recently expanded into the local community, the overall program response has been positive.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response with the new clinics,” said Taylor­Greengard. “We’ve seen huge growth and it has all occurred through word of mouth. We’re very pleased with the outcome of the new clinics and the overall program.”

To learn more about Ascend Rehabiliation and Therapy Services, please call 763.587.7676 or visit our website.