Eight-Week Class Turns Participant Into Leader
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Eight-Week Class Turns Participant Into Leader

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Marjorie Brown
Seattle, Washington

“In the past, I had fallen many times and had suffered from broken bones over and over again. I couldn’t figure out why I was falling. I was standing at the kitchen table, turned around and I just fell–for no reason. Then at the beauty shop, I got my foot caught in the ring around the chair and had a terrible fall and broke my ankle.

After the broken ankle, I broke my right foot twice from falls. I also fell and broke my shoulder and had to have surgery. It seemed like I was falling constantly and I was forever going to the ER. I had the fire department on speed dial on my phone. When I broke my ankle, I got so depressed because I couldn’t walk to the bus stop. I couldn’t go anywhere and I thought I couldn’t do anything. I was just staying at home feeling more and more depressed and hopeless. Then I heard about the Southeast Seattle Senior Center and I came here and joined the chair exercise classes, and everything changed. When I heard about the A Matter of Balance classes, I knew I had to take them.

I haven’t had a single fall since I took A Matter of Balance, not even a stumble, it’s really great. In the two years before I took the workshop, I must have fallen five or six times, and every time I fell, I broke something – my ankle, both feet, my shoulder. The class is the only difference, nothing else has changed.

There are a number of things that have helped me avoid falls since I took the class. I’m a lot stronger now, both because of the exercises we did in the balance class and the chair exercise classes at the senior center. I’m also paying better attention.

The information I got about how to make my home safe was really valuable. I’ve added grab bars in the bathroom and now I have night lights wherever I need them. I’ve also removed throw rugs, cords running across the floor, and other hazards that put me at risk for falling.

The class also taught me to look at my behavior and change things I was doing that could lead to falls. I learned to wear the proper shoes and not to rush to answer the telephone when it rings. I learned to change old habits and develop new, safer habits. We had a guest physical therapist who visited the balance class, so now I feel confident that if I should fall, I can get up by myself.

The class helped me to focus on what I’m doing. I learned to take my time, to be slow, and not to turn around too fast. I also gained confidence that I don’t have to sit at home and worry about falling, that I can get out and do things. I learned this from other people’s experiences, by seeing that they had mobility challenges and they could still do things, they could find safe ways to do the things they wanted to and to ask for help when they need it.

Because the class helped me so much, I wanted to encourage other people to get involved and at least be able to get their story out and to help them learn how to prevent falls.  That is why I decided to become trained as A Matter of Balance coach. 

I have seen other people gain many benefits from the class. One participant had a lot of shoulder pain and couldn’t move her shoulder before she took the class. Now, after doing the gentle exercises, she can move her shoulder and it no longer hurts. Another person in the class felt better after gardening because she’s stronger as a result of the exercises we do, and she doesn’t get as tired anymore.

The socializing is also an important part, just being around other people. I look forward to the class and I think others do, too. People learn from each other by sharing their experiences, talking about how different things affect them. There’s a strong sense of support and an added sense of confidence.

People are more confident about going about what they’re doing. They also learn how to make their homes safer and how to make their behaviors safer, like asking for help when they need it and figuring out ways to get the laundry down the stairs without the risk of falling. They learn ways to do some of the things they want to do, like being able to go for a walk, visit their friends, go shopping, go to the theater, and do the things they had been afraid of before.

In A Matter of Balance, they learn how to protect themselves, how to take care of themselves, how to be aware of what’s around them, to use canes or walkers if they need them, and to ask others for help.

I recommend A Matter of Balance to anyone who has ever had any concerns whatsoever about falling, and caregivers who work with people who might fall.  Those who participate can receive tremendous benefits from this class.”

Interview by Jean Anton, Social Worker at the Southeast Seattle Senior Center

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