Aiming to reduce falls, the Gerlach Center for Senior Health creates The Balance and Mobility Clinic of Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Over the course of the upcoming year, more than one-third of adults age 65 and older will suffer from falls in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Among this older population, falling is the leading cause of injury-related death. To lower central Ohio seniors’ chances of accidental injury or death from falls, Riverside Methodist Hospital’s Gerlach Center for Senior Health, with therapy provider Robinson-Brown & Associates, has created The Balance and Mobility Clinic of Columbus.
The only comprehensive balance and mobility assessment clinic of its kind in central Ohio, the clinic aims to reduce the risk of falls and subsequent injury or death by assessing one’s balance score. Based on that assessment, the clinic team then develops a customized plan of therapy and changes needed to create a safe living environment. The assessment is covered by most private insurances, as well as Medicare Part B and Medicare supplemental plans.
“Anyone who has the possibility of or a fear of falling should be assessed,” said Lea Blackburn, LISW, ACSW, director of the Gerlach Center. “We want to see people before they have a fall. Our focus is on increasing confidence and physical ability, so that they never do.”
When a patient visits the clinic, they are provided an evaluation and comprehensive consultation by a physician and a physical therapist who determine the individual’s ability to balance and his or her risk of falling. Evaluations by a physician include equilibrium tests for sensory and motor systems using a specialized computer program which show patients their ability to balance, or balance score. Consultations with a physical therapist include customized treatment options and therapy recommendations that coincide with the individual’s balance evaluation. A copy of the physician and therapist’s report is then sent to the patient’s primary care physician.
If it is determined that a patient needs follow-up care, he or she is offered an in-home safety assessment by an occupational therapist. By helping to redesign the living space, the occupational therapist creates a safe environment for the patient to live in.
“We see so many preventable accidents in the home. The solution is usually as simple as adding walking bars, removing loose throw rugs or positioning items in the house so the individual can access them without reaching,” said Blackburn.
Another element of follow-up care is continued treatment with physical and occupational therapists at the Gerlach Center and in the patient’s home. In this stage, a patient is given specific treatments and exercise plans to fit his or her individual balance and mobility needs.
As patients continue their work with the Balance and Mobility clinic, they are able to compare their initial balance score, which was calculated on their first visit, to their current and improved score. Seeing concrete evidence that their physical abilities have been increased gives patients the confidence they need to continue living independently.
CDC statistics show that in 2004, almost 15,000 people 65 years or older died of fall-related injuries. Another 1.8 million made visits to emergency departments because of fall-related injuries. In 2000, the direct cost of seniors suffering from falls was approximately $19 billion. By the year 2020, the cost of falling within the senior population is expected to rise to more than $40 billion.
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