With nearly 8,000 people turning 65 each day in the United States, incidents of falling are a great health concern in the elderly population. In response to concerns about falling and the rapid acceleration of the aging baby boomer generation, Eisenhower Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Services department conducts strength, balance and senior fitness screenings. The goal of screening is to identify at-risk individuals and provide objective results that participants may discuss with their physician to address potential issues. They are also given information about many Eisenhower programs and services that may be beneficial.
What’s Involved with Screening?
A typical screening event usually includes several stations in which functional tests or measurements can be conducted easily and quickly. Test selection depends on the population and available normative data.
For seniors, Body Mass Index, Functional Reach, Single Leg Stance, Timed Up-and-Go, 30-second Chair Stand Test, and Grip Strength offer a good variety of strength, balance and coordination assessment. Results are immediately shared with the participant along with information about programs they can discuss with their physician. These programs may include a referral to a community exercise class for strength, balance or Tai Chi classes, or a referral for individualized therapy.
Whether a screening reveals a concern, or perhaps a person (or their loved ones) notices increasing difficulty rising from a seated position, stepping up to a curb or reaching to pick something up off the floor, the most important decision is to discuss these issues with a physician.
A physician may provide a referral to a physical therapist who will perform a comprehensive assessment of strength, flexibility, balance and movement. The physical therapists at the Eisenhower Balance Institute have specialized training in balance and vestibular rehabilitation and use specialized technologies, including Neurocom’s® Smart Equitest®, to determine the best program to meet a patient’s needs. Some patients may also need special tests by an audiologist at the Balance Institute.
Nearly every patient will be provided with a number of flexibility and strengthening exercises, especially for the core (trunk), and lower extremities. Balance exercises, designed to challenge the body’s balance systems, are an important part of most programs and are designed to be challenging and safely performed. Often, therapy programs addressing age-related weakness and balance are provided during weekly visits. They are designed to have the patient perform many activities at home. The therapist provides guidance for program advancement when strength improves and balance activities are mastered.
Community Exercise Programs
Community exercise programs are a valuable option. Eisenhower’s Rehabilitation Services department offers a wide variety of community exercise classes including A Matter of Balance, beginning and advanced Tai Chi, Tai Chi Strength and Balance, Core Strengthening, Arthritis Exercise, Lebed/Healthy Steps, and Walking/Movement.
Physical/Occupational/Speech Therapy is covered by most insurance and requires a physician referral or prescription. Community exercise classes are $5 per session and require a physician clearance.