Nursing students teach fall prevention courses in the community to help senior with safety and personal confidence.

Nursing students teach fall prevention courses in the community to help seniors with safety and personal confidence.

Every 15 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions for older Americans. However, falling is preventable and not an inevitable result of aging. A program led by nursing students at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing is helping to reduce the risk for local residents.

The students lead A Matter of Balance, an evidence-based intervention program that utilizes a variety of physical, social and cognitive factors to address fall prevention strategies. This is the third year the college has taught the program in the Brazos Valley.

“Falls are a real hazard to the aging population,” says Wanda Seaback, M.S.N., ANP, RN, assistant professor of nursing at the Texas A&M College of Nursing and course coordinator. “Not only are the treatment statistics alarming, but studies also indicate that up to half of community dwelling older adults experience a true fear of falling.”

When older adults have a fear of falling, Seaback notes, it can actually cause them to avoid participating in normal activities. This can result in physical inactivity and loss of muscle strength and balance, which can actually lead to an even greater risk of falling.

A Matter of Balance participants learn to view falls and fear of falling as controllable and set realistic goals for increasing activity. The sessions improve flexibility, endurance, sense of balance and also help change patterns of thinking.  In fact, students often engage community members in role playing activities to create solutions to mobility challenges.

“If a participant tells us they are afraid of falling in inclement weather, we encourage them to change their thought pattern and brainstorm for alternatives – perhaps a friend could pick them up and help them into the car,” Seaback says.

The program also encourages participants to find ways to change their environment to reduce risk factors. Participants are encouraged to reduce clutter in the home, make sure pathways are clear and to have good lighting. Additional safety environmental changes are shared with participants throughout the program for both in and out of their home.  

 “With the program, older adults can regain their confidence and venture out more so that they can participate in all of the great activities we offer,” says Eva Hutton, Lifestyle Director at Arbor Oaks and Crestview Healthy Living Community, one of the program sites where nursing students have taught A Matter of Balance. “To see these residents become more confident, while they are having fun, is a joy.” 

The program not only meets the needs of the aging population in the community, but also current nursing students.

“Our students are afforded the opportunity to interact with the older population, communicate and teach a very important safety preventative evidence-based program prior to their first full-time gig on the hospital floor,” Seaback says. “The experience for our students is priceless.”

The workshops are conducted over eight sessions, meeting weekly for two hours per session.  The program is currently being taught in independent living facilities and community centers around the Brazos Valley, including Bryan, Navasota, Anderson, Caldwell, Madisonville and Bedias.  

“The nursing students actually become friends with our residents and both parties look forward to seeing each other weekly,” says Hutton. “I believe this is a winning combination, while the students learn, the residents benefit.”

The college continually seeks new locations for future sessions. If you or your organization is interested in having nursing students facilitate A Matter of Balance, please contact Wanda Seaback at 979-436-0149.

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— Holly Shive

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