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Fifth-Year Physical Therapy Students Conduct Community Balance and Falls Screen
10.19.12 |
Brittany Himmelberger '12 measures reach
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Fifth-year physical therapy students enrolled in Dr. Robin Myers’ geriatrics course applied their classroom and clinical knowledge of screening for fall risk in a free community outreach program on Oct. 11. About two dozen Lebanon County senior citizens volunteered for a balance and falls screen conducted by the students. Click here for a video story about the day’s events.

“I was here at the Sports Center this morning for my workout,” said Lynn Hains of Lebanon. “I saw the tests going on and offered my time to help the students learn.”

Hains had not had a balance and falls screen before, so he was relieved when the students concluded he was not at risk for falls. They guided him through a Berg Balance Test, which included 14 activities to measure balance; a “timed up and go” test to evaluate ambulation abilities; and a test on the gait mat – a high-tech runway that measures gait, walking speed, and step length variability.

Adam Broad ’12, a student volunteer, had practiced balance and fall screening in a previous clinical rotation and in the classroom. “It’s nice to have the previous experience because it makes you feel more comfortable with patients,” he said. “The practice helps us to know how to explain the tests as well as the results.”

Heather Brown ’12 said that conducting the tests and discussing the results isn’t always easy, especially when the patient is at risk for a fall. “Sometimes the reactions aren’t positive,” she said. “People don’t want to have to slow down or use a walker because it takes away their ability to some of the things they want to do.”

For those patients, the students advised a referral to a doctor to discuss the results more thoroughly. But in practice, a physical therapist would recommend high-risk patients to remove carpets and clutter from their home to avoid tripping hazards. They also recommend having something to hold onto when reaching, taking someone along when leaving home, and making sure to always have an assisted device (walker, cane, etc.).

“We provide enough information and tips to make sure our patients know how to be safe,” Brown said. “It’s all about patient education to prevent them from future injury.”

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