Preventing seniors from taking a fall

By Matt Porter

September 24, 2013 Updated Sep 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When Fred Neebe broke both his ankles in two falls, two years a part, he knew he had to make some changes.

"In a churchyard doing some clean up, and there were vines going along the ground and my foot caught on the vine and I fell," Neebe remembered. "Next thing I know, I'm floundering around."

Neebe became one of hundreds of seniors participating in a new program for people with a history of falling. The program is developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The pilot program is run in the UHS Endwell office and includes doctors, members of the Broome County Health Department and other local agencies.

In the program, doctors ask seniors a series of questions about their history of recent falls or loss of balance.

If they answer yes, they take a short physical test of their balance.

Dr. Frank Floyd, the program's director, said falls are the leading cause of accidental injuries for people older than 65 years old.

"Many of these conditions are treatable, and we do have things that can reduce the fall risk," Floyd said.

The new program, known as Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries -- also known as STEADI -- is being funded by a federal grant.

NInty percent of patients in the UHS office have been screened.

If they need help, they get recommendations from physical therapy to Tai Chi.

"One of the biggest risks that contributes to fall risk is inactivity and weakness or deconditioning," Floyd said. "And that's where Tai Chi, physical therapy, and our own UHS imbalance program are really indispensable."

The Broome County Health Department says it's seen fall injuries decrease since the program began last October.

Neebe says he never would have made life changes without the new program.

"I would never have taken Tai Chi without Dr. Floyd," Neebe said.

The CDC reports 1 in 3 people older than 65 years old will take a fall each year.