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. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  2. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor's race has been making headlines for nearly two months as Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have been making speeches, pressing the flesh at fundraisers and gathering their ground forces for an election battle that has already broken fundraising records.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  3. Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law

    Blogs

    To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.
  4. Trump takes another swipe at CNN after resignations over retracted Russia story

    National

    NEW YORK — President Donald Trump used the resignations of three CNN journalists involved in a retracted Russia-related story to resume his attack on the network's credibility Tuesday.

    Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]
  5. Clearwater woman dies after losing control of SUV, flipping in Palm Harbor

    Accidents

    A Clearwater woman died early Tuesday morning when she lost control of her SUV and crashed in Palm Harbor, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.