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In the News

Nursing students educate capital area seniors about falls

Thursday, October 22, 2015

After several trips to thrift stores, a pair of Texas A&M nursing students unloaded 1/2 dozen pairs of sneakers and other shoe styles on a classroom table.

The two students were collecting tangible examples of shoes that help prevent seniors from falling. They wanted to make sure every student in their class had a pair to display while teaching “A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” in the communities served by the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), said Darla Gruben, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

Texas A&M Health Science Center, College of Nursing in Round Rock, and AAACAP partnered to teach A Matter of Balance. The partnership benefits everyone the program touches. It increases the number of older adults who learn about fall prevention; allows for AAACAP, a Capital Area Council of Governments division, to reach more seniors with the program, and the students learn valuable skills and information.

“The Texas A&M and AAACAP partnership has greatly benefited older residents living in Williamson County,” said Liz Salinas, AAACAP Health and Wellness Coordinator. “It allows for a continual pool of passionate and devoted coaches who can educate older residents in several area communities at once.”

A Matter of Balance is an evidence based program created by the Roybal Center for Enhancement of Late-Life Function at Boston University. The course teaches older adult participants to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home, and exercises to increase strength and improve balance. The course is taught over eight, 2-hour sessions by two coaches.

AAACAP provides the course throughout the 10-county region, trains program coaches and oversees program fidelity. For the partnership with Texas A&M, it trains the nursing students to be certified program coaches.

> To volunteer as a Matter of Balance coach contact Liz Salinas.

Every year, there are 20 students at the Round Rock campus who take the course that teaches A Matter of Balance as part of its curriculum. They become certified A Matter of Balance coaches after 8 hours of training over two days conducted by Salinas, a master trainer for the program. The nursing students can then lead A Matter of Balance programs for about 48 seniors a year. Since the program began 6 years ago, about 300 older adults have received fall prevention classes.

The nursing student led A Matter of Balance classes started Sept. 28 and are being facilitated at senior living communities in Round Rock, Georgetown and Leander; and at a senior center in Round Rock.  
The dedication and enthusiasm of the nursing students tends to transfer to the older-adult participants in each A Matter of Balance program, Gruben said. Every session is full of energy from both the nursing students and the seniors.

While seniors benefit from learning about fall prevention, the students are learning from teaching the classes.

“At first they are fearful, because they have been in a hospital setting and not educating groups of people, but after that first class, they are so excited and realize the A Matter of Balance materials give them a lot in their tool kit, and it allows them to give back to their community,” Gruben said. “They realize they are really fulfilling a need in the community.”

A large part of nursing is patient education. This partnership teaches the students how to handle that education at a different level and bring it back to a one-on-one patient setting. It also shows the nursing students there is a variety for job opportunities in the community for nurses because these programs are held in a non-hospital setting.

Just learning about fall prevention is another great aspect of the partnership for the nursing students, Gruben said.

Injuries resulting from falls make up about 88 percent of emergency room visits nationwide.

“Everyone is given a fall risk assessment in the hospital,” she said. “The students can use what they have learned during their A Matter of Balance training to better assess a patient, prevent a patient from falling at the hospital, and educate the patient about fall prevention once they return home.”

A Matter of Balance is a very important program that educates everyone from the programs participants to the student coaches about the risk of falling, Gruben said. It is a wonderful cause for Texas A&M nursing students to be passionate about and doing the “selfless service that we promote as an Aggie Core Value here at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.” That passion drives some students to not only talk about what types of shoes help prevent falls, but also to voluntarily rush out and buy appropriate examples of shoes.

> Discover more about A Matter of Balance.
> Learn about the Area Agency on Aging. 

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