Fit and Fall Proof

Submitted By

Cherie Nelson
Southeastern Idaho Public Health, Idaho
August 7, 2013

Having trouble getting in and out of a car because the legs are feeling weak? Having trouble carrying groceries because the arms are not as strong as they once were? You could be losing functional mobility. You could be at risk of falling.

Betty knew she was having trouble doing any of her usual daily activities. She had been using a cane but purchased a walker because of she felt so insecure. When Southeastern Idaho Public Health organized and advertised the new Fit and Fall Proof™ falls prevention exercise program in her community, Betty signed up! Betty arrived on the first day of class but could hardly make it across the room to join the exercise group. There was great concern for her safety, especially while participating in the exercise class. Betty struggled to walk to the back of the room to do the evaluation, an eight foot Timed Up and Go test. It took Shirley almost one minute to do the test. Anything over 10 seconds is a strong indicator of ones’ risk of falling. After an extended conversation with Betty, it was decided she would be alright to participate in the exercise class. Betty’s medical provider had already recommended she participate in an exercise class. She didn’t have any major medical problems but was experiencing a significant lack of self-confidence and fear of falling. Another reason Betty needed to be in the FFP™ class was that she had a goal! She desperately wanted to get around without a walker or cane. She was determined to walk without assistance.

Betty attended the twice weekly class. She started doing the exercises sitting down but was soon able to do some of the exercises while standing and holding on to a chair. Ten weeks later Betty did a second Timed Up and Go Test and she did much better. Her test time was down by about one-third. She was less dependent on the walker but was still using her cane. Betty continued to participate in the exercise classes and her Timed Up and Go Test score continued to improve at every test. She had become more confident and less fearful. Within a year, she was doing all the exercises standing, put away the cane, and was walking without assistance. She participated in the class for three years.

Then Betty had a huge set back. The class leader needed to take time off and class was canceled for three months. During her time away from the class Betty didn’t exercise on her own. She lost strength in her legs and became wobbly again. She also purchased a pair of “balance” shoes. Balance shoes are designed to challenge the balance of healthy 20 year old girls and promise an attractive derriere for the user. However, the same shoes can be deadly for an 80-year-old woman who already has balance and stability issues. When the class restarted, Betty had fallen several times and was using a cane and walker again because she couldn’t walk! Her confidence was gone. Betty began exercising twice each week again and was eventually convinced to abandon the shoes. She continues to gain back strength and balance and has, again, put aside the walker and cane.

Betty’s determination to maintain her freedom from assistive devices by continuing participation in Fit and Fall Proof™ truly validates the Fit and Fall Proof™ mission. Just as the program helped Betty, it could benefit others to prevent falls and help them stay balanced, mobile, strong, and flexible.

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