A recent Canadian study has demonstrated that, among participants aged 50 and older, those with hip and vertebral fractures were more likely to die during a 5-year follow-up than those without these fractures. In addition, the results showed that hip fractures might have long-lasting effects that result in eventual death by signaling or actually inducing a progressive decline in health. The research was part of the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study and included 2,187 men and 5,566 women.
The progressive decline in health has been linked to a lack of mobility and a loss of strength and muscle mass, which results in increased disability and other negative health consequences. After a fracture, many people suffer from chronic back pain, immobility and changes in posture that can lead to depression, hopelessness and strained family relationships.
Physical therapy can help restore normal functioning, but only if the patient commits to following through on the treatment plan. “Because of other medical complications, or a lack of compliance, some patients miss out on the benefits of therapy,” says Barbara Hauser, Certified Fitness Trainer/Physical Therapist Assistant at LIFE ElderCare. “Rehabilitation requires constant work and if depression or adverse lifestyle changes enter in, the patient may never fully recover.”
LIFE ElderCare’s Falls Prevention Program has been successful in helping seniors overcome resistance to therapy by enrolling them in a 12-week personalized, in-home exercise program that includes a weekly support visit from students enrolled in Unitek College’s Licensed Vocational Nursing Program. Through the use of resistance bands, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, participants are able to gradually improve their muscle strength, balance and gait. This leads to greater mobility, enhanced functioning and less fear about falling in the future.
Anne, a 69-year old woman living in Fremont, enrolled in the program because of repeated falls caused by a painful back condition. Because of her chronic health problems she had given up on ever feeling better. At the beginning of the program she was resistant but after four weeks of support and encouragement she is now exercising daily and reaping the benefits. “I had to start out slowly,” she says, “but now I am doing the exercises 30 minutes every day and am confident I will reach my goal of 40 minutes per day.”
The program is offered at no cost to people, aged 60 years and older (and a bit younger for those with disabilities) living in Fremont, Union City and Newark, and includes a home safety assessment, minor home modifications, and a medication review. During the past four years the program has helped over 1,200 seniors and is recommended to patients by physicians, physical therapists and case managers from Washington Hospital, Kaiser Permanente and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
“LIFE ElderCare’s Falls Prevention Program has been a wonderful addition to my overall treatment program for my patients with osteoporosis,” says rheumatologist Barry Shibuya, M.D. “Despite our best drug therapy, which includes calcium, vitamin D and a bisphosphonate, if a patient is prone to falling, they may still sustain a fracture. By preventing falls, we can dramatically reduce the number of fractures sustained by patients with osteoporosis.”
A recent analysis of LIFE ElderCare’s Falls Prevention program post assessment data by the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team found that the program significantly lowers the risk of falling. Client post-program surveys also showed marked improvement in the seniors’ balance, strength, energy, mood and confidence.
For more information call Maureen Parent at 510-574-2088 or visit our website at lifeeldercare.org. It’s never too late to begin, the average participant is 87 years old. Five people who recently signed up are over the age of 90 and one person began the program at 100!
This program is partially funded by a GSAA Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Grant.