Published on July 20, 2015

Find your balance

Be steadier on your feet with the balance program

Have you ever dreamed you were falling? Maybe you woke with a start—but no real harm was done.

Balance ballIn real life, falling can be a nightmare. You could break your hip. You might hit your head and get a concussion—or even worse. Some injuries require surgery and physical therapy. Some take away people’s independence.

But there are ways to prevent trips and tumbles. To help you, Nazareth Hospital created the Balance Program.

How can it help?

If you are over 65, your chance of falling at least once this year is 1 in 3. And getting older isn’t the only risk factor for falling. According to Helen Kozlowski, manager of Nazareth Hospital’s Outpatient Center for Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation and Balance, other risk factors include:

  • Having an ear infection or wearing bifocals
  • Health issues, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease
  • And here’s one that may surprise you: the fear of falling.

“Fear is a risk factor because it makes people unsteady on their feet,” Kozlowski says.

Reducing that fear is a key part of the Balance Program. Other important factors include building strength and teaching people how to avoid falls. In just three years, the program has helped more than 200 people regain their balance—and their confidence.

What does it involve?

To participate in the Balance Program, you will need a prescription. So ask your doctor to screen you if you are over 65 or have other risk factors for falling. If your insurance covers physical therapy, it will cover the Balance Program.

“At our clinic, the process starts with a questionnaire,” Kozlowski says. “Then there is an assessment.” A physical therapist uses a machine called the NeuroCom Balance Master to check your balance by evaluating:

  • How stable you are
  • How well you control your body movements

“Patients move from left to right and backward and forward, at different speeds, on the Balance Master,” Kozlowski says. “We review the results with the patient. Then we create an individualized program.”

The balance therapy program takes about three months to complete. It includes education and exercises such as stretching and walking to increase strength, stamina and mobility.

“We customize each patient’s program based on his or her needs and goals,” Kozlowski says. “We always ask, ‘What is your goal?’ Because if it’s important to the patient, it’s important to us.”