June 21, 2018
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Home health care agency helps elderly find their balance, prevent falls

Senior Beat
by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging

Balance should be a part of our everyday lives. We are advised to find a healthy balance between work and play, vegetables and cake, exercise and watching TV.

Maybe the most important balance of all is the one that helps prevent falls. Eastern Area Agency on Aging offers numerous and very successful Matter of Balance classes but they are community based not home based. Seniors must physically attend the sessions.

So this begs the question, what about the homebound elderly who are at extreme risk for falling but are unable to enroll in a Matter of Balance course.

Gentiva Home Healthcare has the answer. Because they have employees on the front lines providing direct care who see homebound seniors falling regularly, the company has developed the Safe Strides comprehensive balance program.

“While treating the complications of a fall is necessary, it’s important to find out what caused the fall in order to prevent future occurrences,” said Tammy Pellegrino, rehabilitation director at Gentiva. Safe Strides takes a multi-system approach to the evaluation and treatment of balance dysfunction, all in the comfort of a person’s home.”

The assessment is thorough taking two days to finish.

For Charles Kirby, a man in his 90s, the assessment was a little rough but he is all the better for participating in Safe Strides. Kirby was in a terrible car accident in 1939 that severely damaged his left leg and injured his right one. He also has broken his hip twice.

“It was quite a procedure, exhausting at times. They put me through the paces looking at everything. And they had me stand on a sponge cushion for the balance part. It was quite devilish,” Kirby said, with a laugh.

So ask yourself this: Are you homebound and have problems with your gait? Do feel unstable when you walk? Have you had a fall?

Balance problems can have a variety of little known causes, including vertigo, progressive neurological disorders, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, brain injury or degeneration and peripheral neuropathy.

“Once the cause of a fall is determined, our team of skilled therapists and homecare nurses will work with the physician to develop a customized treatment plan to correct balance problem and treat injuries caused by previous falls,” said Pellegrino. “Safe Strides can get people on the road to recovery so they can begin to enjoy life again without the fear of falling.”

Once a referral is made by the primary care doctor, services can begin within 24 hours and therapy is available five days a week. Kirby’s doctor expressed surprise at how fast the report got to him, said Kirby.

“We offer a multidisciplinary approach including, as needed, physical and occupational therapy, nursing and home health aide services, and consultations with a medical social worker,” said Pellegrino.

Gentiva uses a team approach to assess the situation, determine the root cause the balance problems and evaluate vision, the inner ear system, current balance, sensation and coordination. They also evaluate prescribed medications for balance-related side effects and assess your home environment for any hazards or potential problems that could cause a fall. Continuous monitoring of progress and recovery along with recommendations on equipment and-or simple modifications for in-home rehabilitation and safety are offered as well. Medicare part A pays for this service 100 percent.

In fact, a new research report came out about Safe Strides in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. Specialized homecare with a falls prevention program can show success in decreasing falls. It improves balance and fall risk in older persons.

For more information on Safe Strides, call Gentiva at 990-9000.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.  For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or go to EAAA.org.

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