Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senior Strong program's goal is to help prevent falls, injury

Nobody wants to be a Humpty-Dumpty.

For seniors, a fall can be more than an inconvenience. It can mean injury and an end to independence. It can mean never being put back together again.

The statistics are stark.

One in three seniors 65 and older will fall this year. One-fourth of those will suffer an injury, perhaps a fractured hip, that requires surgery and convalescence. Only a quarter of those will make a full recovery. And the risk goes up as we age.

Numbers such as these spurred an orthopedic surgeon, a resident of Tampa, to look for a way to slow the flow of injured seniors coming into his practice. Dr. Christopher Grayson of the Florida Orthopaedic Institute in Palm Harbor determined that physical therapy before a fall might be the answer.

"We have a large number of senior patients in this area who, unfortunately, fall and have hip fractures," Grayson said. "The outcomes are pretty scary. About one-fourth of these patients may die in the first year from surgery."

Grayson, 34, said he started looking for ways to "intervene beforehand."

As a result, about six months ago Grayson designed a therapy program for at-risk seniors called Senior Strong. Eligible seniors in the program meet one-on-one with a physical therapist who works with them to develop stronger back and leg muscles.

Those seniors may already be exercising at a YMCA or in a SilverSneakers-style program, but often the exercises in such classes aren't strenuous enough, Grayson said.

In the Senior Strong program, clients work with a therapist for 30 to 45 minutes two or three times a week. The cost, if it's not covered by insurance, ranges from $50 to $60 per visit, Grayson said. In addition to strengthening muscles, the program strives to help clients develop better balance for such everyday activities as carrying groceries and running errands.

Sometimes, the benefits go further than just preventing a fall. "One of the things I noted," Grayson said, "is that patients with a fear of falling cut out activities in their lives. They become more homebound."

This sort of introversion can lead to depression and loss of connection with family and friends. With the Senior Strong program, "... They feel more confident, more stable. They (learn to) do an exercise program on their own and don't need a therapist."

To date, none of the 10 to 20 patients who have gone through Senior Strong have fallen, Grayson said, and there are plans to expand Senior Strong to all 10 Florida Orthopaedic Institutes in the Tampa Bay area. Anyone 60 or older is eligible to apply for the program, Grayson said. "It is safe, when done correctly, for patients of all ages."

Whether or not you are part of a one-on-one program like Senior Strong, there are a number of preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of a fall, according to Harleah Buck, a registered nurse and associate professor at the University of South Florida's College of Nursing. "Once you have fallen, you are three times more likely to fall again," Buck said.

The key is to be aware of both personal and environmental risk factors. The primary personal risk factor is the sedentary lifestyle many people tend to live as they age. It's a natural slowing-down process. "Our muscles aren't as strong," Buck said.

Other personal factors that can contribute to falls include chronic disease — or sometimes, the treatment received to fight a disease.

Another personal risk factor, Buck said, is a person's "gait — how you walk." People who have suffered a stroke, for example, have a "significant problem with their gait." So can people who have had knee or hip replacements "and older athletes who have had significant damage early in their lives or surgery," Buck said.

There can also be sensory issues for people with diminished eyesight or reduced depth perception. "Sometimes, there can be numbness in the feet due to aging or disease process," she said.

Unfortunately, there's not much a person can do about most personal risk factors, Buck said, but there are environmental risk factors that can be reduced.

These include not wearing "poor footwear (like) flip-flops" and being alert to slippery floors and loose rugs. "Watch out for tripping hazards like things on the floor and pets," she said.

Buck also echoes Grayson's emphasis on increased exercise, increased muscle strength and increased balance skills.

"Use exercise to improve your gait, your balance, your coordination (and) your muscle strength," she urges.

Contact Fred W. Wright Jr. at travelword@aol.com.

Senior Strong

For more information about the Florida Orthopaedic Institute program, visit tbtim.es/seniorstrong or call Christina at (813) 978-9700, ext. 7840.

Fall prevention

To learn more about what additional measures you can take, visit the National Council on Aging's website at ncoa.org and enter "falls" in the search box.

Senior Strong program's goal is to help prevent falls, injury 04/23/17 [Last modified: Sunday, April 23, 2017 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucking his party, Trump defends Roy Moore's denials (w/video)

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump broke with leading Republicans Tuesday and voiced support for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama who has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers and has seen his campaign's prospects imperiled.

    President Donald Trump points to reporters after speaking at the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Washington, as he and his family were leaving for a Thanksgiving trip to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. [Manuel Balce Ceneta | Associated Press]
  2. Trump's visit to Florida met with protests over immigration decision for Haitians

    Nation

    South Florida community leaders Tuesday decried the Trump administration's decision to return nearly 60,000 Haitians to their quake-ravaged homeland, calling it "heartbreaking" and "shameful" while vowing that their fight has just begun.

    A demonstrator chants into a megaphone during a protest ahead of the arrival of President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach on Tuesday. The Trump administration has moved to slash the number of refugees, accelerate deportations and terminate the provisional residency of more than a million people, among other measures. [Saul Martinez | Bloomberg]
  3. Teen idol David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' star, dies at 67

    Obituaries

    LOS ANGELES — David Cassidy of "The Partridge Family" fame has died at age 67.

    Former teen idol David Cassidy of "The Partridge Family" fame has died at age 67, his publicist said Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. [Associated Press]
  4. Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

    College

    TAMPA — It's the biggest football game in USF history.

    The USF Herd of Thunder play the school's fight song before the start of the game against the Temple Owls at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, September 21, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. FBI: Border agent's death a 'potential assault'

    Nation

    DALLAS — An FBI official said Tuesday that the bureau is investigating the death of a Border Patrol agent and severe injuries to another as "potential assault," but he wouldn't rule out that they could have been hurt in some other way.

    FBI Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. says Tuesday that investigators are treating the incident as an assault.