From the Field StaffEd Eckroth

by Ed Eckroth

A Matter of Balance

While visiting the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Palo Alto, California, the Blinded Veterans Association Veterans Care Review Team witnessed the adoption of a new program that was, at the time, being piloted there.

Prevention of falls is of serious concern to people with vision loss. Many adults fear falls because of the risk of serious injury.

A Matter of Balance is an award-winning specialty program for fall prevention through exercise, practical tips, and problem solving in a supportive environment. Falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalization in the United States and a major cause of injury and death for older adults. The program takes four weeks and is designed to benefit community dwelling or older adults who have one or more of the following attributes:

They are concerned about falls.

They have sustained a fall in the past.

They restrict activities because of concerns about falling.

They are interested in improving flexibility, balance, and strength.

They are age 60 or older, ambulatory, and able to solve problems.

During eight two-hour sessions, participants learn to view falls and fear of falling as controllable, set realistic goals for increasing activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and promote exercise to increase strength and balance. The workshops offer fall prevention tips such as wearing appropriate footwear. Participants have homework, such as using a home safety checklist, and then share results with the group.

Developed by the Roybal Center at Boston University, A Matter of Balance was initially delivered by healthcare professionals. Debra Laine, Special Programs Director at the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging in Duluth, Minnesota, collaborated with the Duluth Lighthouse for the Blind to devise an accessible program for people with low or no vision that could easily be disseminated nationally.

The program is now led by volunteer lay leaders, a move that has significantly reduced costs and allowed the program to expand to 38 states. It will soon roll out from Palo Alto to all of our VA BRCs.

Veterans have reported very high satisfaction with materials, activities, outings, and exercises associated with this pilot program. If you believe that A Matter of Balance can help you or another blinded veteran family member or friend, please make contact with your VIST Coordinator and ask if he/she can get the veteran in question into the program closest to his/her home.