Community Engagement

Preventative PT

Community program offers unique upstream care for older adults

Physical therapy professor and student with woman holding weight

Department of Human Movement Science

icon of a calendarNovember 20, 2019

icon of a pencilBy Maiya Goldston

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aged 65+ fall each year. Oakland University physical therapists are finding new ways to help reduce these risks.

“Physical therapists are experts in diagnosing and treating problems commonly experienced
during aging, including falls, weakness, and community integration,” says Dr. Sara Arena, associate professor of physical therapy at OU. “Preventative measures such as exercise, fall prevention and home modifications have been found to be effective for older adults.”

To better utilize these measures, Arena, alongside colleague Dr. Chris Wilson, have created the
Home-Based Older Person, Upstream Prevention, Physical Therapy (HOP-UP-PT) program. This program provides early preventive care for older adults that are at-risk of being homebound.

“The program takes place in the older persons home,” Arena explains. “A physical therapist goes in and does an evaluation that would include fall risk, balance, and a home environment assessment to really see what's needed for that individual to be safe and independent in their home.”

OU Doctor of Physical Therapy students are also collaborating with the program to help Arena and Wilson with data collection, screenings and research. According to Wilson, these students receive “immediate practical application of preventative care with older adults.”

“As physical therapists, we are well versed in rehabilitating someone after they had a fall, injury
or medical issue,” continues Wilson, “but students who participate in HOP-UP-PT get to see the upstream care that can prevent these problems before they happen, which is a very unique practice model.”

“This program can really impact health care value,” Arena says. “Specifically, it has potential to
improve the quality of life of the older adult participants at a significantly lower cost burden than that which has been reported for a fall-related injury.”

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