UNTHSC provides help to seniors in facing the fear of falling

Falls Prevention Class
Faye Giddings practices stepping over an obstacle during a falls prevention class at the Handley-Meadowbrook Senior Center in Fort Worth.

One day last summer, 74-year-old retiree Darold Klamt, surveying his handiwork in his well-kept yard, walked backward a few steps so he could take in the whole scene.

“The next thing I knew, I was face-down in the grass,” said the Benbrook, Texas, grandfather of three. “I tripped over the garden hose, hit my face on the ground and banged my glasses into my nose.”

With only minor cuts and bruises, he said, “I was lucky.”

Indeed he was. “A fall often leads to the nursing home,” said Sarah Ross, MS, DO, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UNT Health Science Center, who uses special criteria to screen patients for their risk of falling. “Worse, every 29 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.”

In 2012, the Fort Worth Fire Department recorded 1,321 calls involving falls with injury, about 7.2 percent of all EMS calls. Half were by persons over 60.

With Nicoleta Bugnariu, PT, PhD, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy; Janice Knebl, DO, Chief of Geriatrics; and the UNTHSC Office of Professional and Continuing Education, Dr. Ross developed guidelines for physicians and health care providers to use in assessing patients’ risk of falling and ways to minimize those risks.

They also collaborate with community organizations to present classes in falls prevention. Klamt and his wife, Patsy, enrolled in a free Matter of Balance course at Harris Southwest hospital, led by UNTHSC health care professionals and students.

“We learned to be more aware of our surroundings, use handrails on stairs and recognize hazards,” said Patsy Klamt, 64.

“They also showed us exercises for your back and for balance,” Darold Klamt said. “They’re simple exercises, and you don’t need equipment. You can do them sitting or standing.”

For more than six months since finishing the class, the Klamts have been fall-free, even during the storm last December that coated the city with ice.

 

What’s your risk of falling? Ask your physician about the Timed Up and Go Test

Record the time it takes to:

  1. Rise from a hard-backed chair with arms
  2. Walk 10 feet
  3. Turn
  4. Return to the chair
  5. Sit down.
  • Most older people can complete in 10 seconds.
  • 14 seconds or more indicates an increased falls risk.
  • More than 20 seconds indicates the need for a comprehensive medical evaluation.

How to get help

  • The Centers for Disease Control provides a home falls prevention checklist or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) to request brochures.
  • Find A Matter of Balance class at the Senior Citizens Services of Tarrant County website. Click on “Wellness Programs.” Or call 817-413-4969, ext. 214.
  • To contact a UNTHSC health care provider, call 817-735-DOCS (3627).

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