About this time last year, my mother lost her balance and fell on a curb fracturing her cheek bone. She was in severe pain, and her eye was swollen shut. She missed a week of work and probably suffered a concussion, although it was never diagnosed. As a physical therapist specializing in vestibular disorders, I’ve spent multiple clinical hours trying to help my dizzy and unsteady patients prevent a fall. This event really struck a cord with me, and I felt the need to do my part on a broader scope to prevent some of the devastating effects falling can have on our seniors.

We all remember and laughed at the goofy TV commercial with the feeble older lady squeaking, “I fell down and I can’t get up”.  However, falls in older adults are no laughing matter, and my mother is far from feeble. Statistics published by the CDC report that 1 of 3 people over the age of 65 will suffer a fall each year. 1 of 5 of these falls result in serious or life-threatening injuries. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults. Every 15 secs an older adult will be treated in the ER with a fall related injury. Even more alarming, older adults who sustain a hip fracture are reportedly 2-3 times more likely to die within one year.

With an election this year, cuts in Medicare and controlling the skyrocketing cost of healthcare seem to be hot topics of conversation in the media and elsewhere. Besides suffering and injury, Medicare has realized that falls are also expensive. For this reason, Medicare now mandates physicians to perform and document a fall risk assessment and plan of care on any patient who falls more than once within a year.

Fall risk assessments not complicated or costly medical tests, but rather simple measures of balance, blood pressure, functional strength, vision and other factors that when examined in concert, predict risk and detect areas that can be improved. As a PT specializing in vestibular and balance disorders, I have done hundreds of these assessments over my past 20 years of practice. Our PT practice, Seacoast Body Balance LLC on Portsmouth Avenue in Greenland is committed to doing our part to reduce the catastrophic effects of falls in our older folks on the Seacoast. We are working closely with area doctors to facilitate the implementation of the new Medicare requirements.

Seacoast Body Balance will also provide free Fall Risk Assessments with a doctor’s referral or recommendation. This service will performed at no cost to the patient, and we will not send a bill to Medicare. The Fall Risk Assessment is completed in our office and a written report sent to the referring MD. It will include a Home Fall Hazard Checklist with recommendations for preventing injuries within the home.  The assessment will also include any physical therapy recommendations that may be beneficial.

Physical Therapy has been proven as a cost-effective, highly successful intervention in the management of balance, falls, and fall related injuries.  For more information visit www.cdc.gov/injury/STEADI  For more information about physical therapy at Seacoast Body Balance, LLC or to schedule an appointment, call 603-400-0711.


Melissa, PT