Occupational Therapist Carol Babcock and Teresa Krepel using the Balance Master. Therapists provide balance therapy as part of the Outpatient Rehab Services at Saint Clare’s Hospital.
ALTON – As we age, there are countless medical conditions we need to start paying attention to, but one of the biggest dangers late in life is not a disease or condition: it is falling.
And when you combine medical conditions like arthritis with the physical challenges of aging, you can get a dangerous combination.
Arthritis sufferer Teresa Krepel of Alton has experienced the terror of vertigo and falling.
“It’s not something you prepare for. I was walking down the hall to my doctor’s appointment when I realized I was going to fall and couldn’t stop it,” Krepel says. “It gave me a golf-ball size knot on my head. I was so thankful and fortunate that I didn’t get a concussion or break any bones.”
After seeing her physician and trying different medications, Krepel decided to try occupational therapy. She visited Carol Babcock, balance specialist and occupational therapist, at Saint Anthony’s Health Center to find a solution for her problem.
“I had gone to Saint Anthony’s for therapy before and everyone was so nice it was like visiting old friends. I was happy to go back,” she says. “Carol recognized the problems with my back and started me on physical therapy to help build my strength. I have seen a lot of improvement.”
Babcock has this warning for seniors, especially those with arthritis, about the dangers of falling.
“Falls sometimes result in hospital admission, and often lead to otherwise functioning adults losing their independence,” Babcock says. “For a senior with arthritis, especially one who lives alone, a fall could be a life-changing event.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that adults with arthritis are 2 1/2 times more likely to be injured in falls than those without the disease.
“Arthritis suffers tend to have decreased strength and diminished awareness of their body position and balance,” she adds. “In their attempt to avoid disease-associated pain and joint complications, arthritis suffers can start a self-fulfilling fall prophecy.”
To help people with an elevated risk of falling, Saint Anthony’s invested in a newly renovated Balance Center and a $25,000 Balance Master System. The system is the same technology used by NASA to measure crew’s pre-and-post-flight equilibrium — and only available in the Balance Center on the Saint Clare’s Hospital campus.
“The advanced technology allows us to evaluate a patient’s functional abilities and assessment of positions or movements that provoke the symptoms,” Babcock says. “Based on the findings from the Balance Master, we design a personalized program designed to minimize symptoms, improve balance, teach compensatory strategies and increase functional status.”
The balance system combines computerized technology with task-related activities to help users coordinate their mind/body orientation.
“Using a training device, like the Balance Master, allows participants the opportunity to get their senses in sync,” Babcock says. “Falls aren’t a normal part of aging and many falls can be prevented by making some changes that can reduce your risks.”
If you or a loved one experiences dizziness or frequent falls, be sure to register for an upcoming balance screening on Wednesday, Aug. 27, in the Balance Center of Saint Clare’s Professional Building at 815 E. Fifth St. Saint Anthony’s therapists will be on hand to provide the free balance screenings from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
For more information or to make an appointment for the screening, please call (618) 465-2264.
“I can’t say enough about the therapy,” Krepel says. “The people, from the front desk to the therapists, were wonderful and helped me improve my balance and manage the vertigo.”