CVTC students help seniors stay on their feet

September 20, 2013

From The Dunn County News: “CVTC students help seniors stay on their feet” — Valeriya Argo used a cell phone as a stopwatch and kept time as an elderly woman walked a pre-determined distance, turned and walked back. For the patient, the exercise was to test balance and help gauge her risk of falling. For Argo, it was a step closer to a return to a career working  with patients.

Now a Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) student from Menomonie in the Physical Therapist Assistant program, Argo is a native of Russia, where she was a medical doctor. She visited the United States five years ago, where she met her now-husband. She’s not licensed to practice here, so she turned to CVTC for a new healthcare career.

She misses working with patients.

Tuesday, Sept. 10, the second-year student had that opportunity. She was one of a small group of program students who volunteered to help with a Falls Prevention Screening event at the L.E. Phillips Senior Center in Eau Claire. The event was sponsored by the Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of Eau Claire County, which partnered with CVTC, Marshfield Clinic and others in recognition of Septem-ber as Falls Prevention Month.

Balanced approach

“Falls are a leading cause of death among people age 65 and over,” said Deb Bruning, prevention program coordinator with the resource center. “Seventy percent of emergency room visits for people over age 65 are due to falls. And 40 percent of falls are 100 percent preventable. Falling is not a normal part of aging.”

The event, and one like it scheduled for Sept. 25 at the Senior and Community Center in Augusta, was designed to determine a person’s risk of falling. For those at higher risk, follow-up with a physician or other professional is recommended.

“We were asked to provide students for each event to do balance screenings,” said Alissa Amundson, CVTC Physical Therapist Assistant instructor. “There are different short, simple tests that can be done that give a general idea of a person’s balance ability. There’s some correlation with balance as a pre-dictor of falls.”

“We’re going to find out who is at large risk. Sometimes it’s just muscle weakness. If we find out, we can help them,” said Argo.

“It’s creating an awareness for them on where their balance is. If they are at high risk, they can meet with their doctor and see what they can do to prevent falls,” said Angella Niblett, a CVTC student from Chippewa Falls.

Argo timed people starting out from a seated position, standing and walking a few steps at a meas-ured distance, then returning to sit down.

Stand up, sit down

“I’m helping with the 30-second chair stand,” said Angie Burgess, a student from Eau Claire. “They cross their arms and put their hands on their shoulders and completely sit down and completely stand up as many times as they can in 30 seconds.”

Burgess was excited about getting started in her new career. A university graduate with degrees in Spanish and kinesiology, she hit the job market just as the economy turned bad.

“I heard about a job as a physical therapist assistant, but found I wasn’t qualified, so I went back to school.”

“This is a change of careers for me,” said Niblett. “I previously did management (in healthcare) and decided I wanted to be on the side that was working with patients.”

Amundson said the work the students were doing at the screening is typical for physical therapy assistants. Students in the program also volunteer at other events where their skills can come in handy, such as helping Special Olympics with athlete screenings.

Bruning was excited to have the students and other volunteers who helped with the event, which included a dietician from the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources with help from a UW-Stout student, vision screening with a volunteer from the UW Health Family Medical Clinic in CVTC’s Health Education Center, a medication review station with a Sacred Heart Hospital pharmacist and University of Minnesota students, and a physical therapist from Marshfield Clinic.

Those wishing to attend the upcoming screening in Augusta should contact the Aging & Disability Resource Center at 715-839-4735 or 1-888-338-4636.

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