By Selma Al-Samarrai
Whenever the staff at Providence Healthcare’s Falls Prevention Clinic ask how Paul Cullen is doing, he can’t help but belt out a James Brown song.
“The staff are so kind, professional and very conscientious. They provide such care here. Whenever they ask me how I’m feeling during my appointments, I respond with ‘I Feel Good,’” Cullen explains with a laugh.
Since 2014, the Falls Prevention Clinic and its team of experts has been helping individuals who are at risk of falling and want to improve their mobility, balance and co-ordination. Common causes for falls include chronic medical conditions, environmental reasons, fear of falling, or normal changes associated with aging.
Since then, the clinic has grown and now includes a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, a rehab assistant, a pharmacist and a social worker.
After referral and assessment, patients attend weekly appointments for an average of eight to 10 weeks, where they work one-on-one with a health care provider for their individualized therapy. In the fiscal year 2018-19, the clinic saw approximately 410 patients, totaling 4,283 individual visits.
“We work with patients to improve their balance and functional mobility which means increasing their strength and endurance, reducing the likelihood of falls, and working towards any of the client’s particular goals,” explained Jacqueline Wiley, a patient care manager for Providence’s Geriatric Unit.
Cullen was first referred to the Falls Prevention Clinic in the fall of 2016 after he underwent treatment for esophageal cancer and began experiencing trouble with his balance and mobility.
“I came to Providence because my balance was terrible and I had a couple of falls that really knocked the wind out of me; it scared me to lose my balance like that,” said Cullen.
“I’m a really independent person and I try my hardest to take care of myself. So the team here helps me by providing me with basic exercises to help improve my balance and my overall ability to walk.”
Cullen has since returned to the clinic on a few more occasions. He came back in 2018 after six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, and is now back again receiving outpatient therapy.
“Clients come back to the clinic for various reasons,” explained Nicola Bell, a physiotherapist at the Falls Prevention Clinic.
“Sometimes they are overall in good condition and they come to us for advice or insight on their mobility and balance, and other times they have quite complex medical conditions and they require re-assessment and a longer period of treatment and support. We tailor their appointments to their needs.”
When patients are discharged from the Falls Prevention Clinic, the team provides them with information on community exercise and social programs to help them maintain the physical gains they made in the clinic.
“We establish good relationships with our clients. It’s not just the health care needs that we get to know well, but we also get to know the patient’s family and social situation. They become really comfortable talking to us and the program generally has good outcomes for the clients,” explained Bell.