Dawn Root is all about keeping life ‘in balance’
“Maintaining balance is extremely important at all ages, but especially as we get older where we’re more prone to have falls,” says Dawn Root, physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.
As a physical therapist trained in balance evaluation and therapy- she put me to the test. Using some of the latest, hi-tech equipment.
“One of the machines we’ll use is actually the smart eco test. And there’s a couple of different tests that we can do with it. The first is a sensory organization test, which will test how well the patient uses their three balance systems. Their vision, their somatic sensory vision, or what their feet are feeling and telling them about their balance. And their vestibular system or their inner ear,” says Root.
This equipment looks a little bit intimidating, but what it’s designed to do is see how well you keep your balance while focusing on a fixed object.
So here we go....
“Amy we’re going to go ahead and put this vest on you,” says Root.
I’ll be hooked to the machine to make sure I don’t fall down.
“I will move your feet where they need to be,” says Root.
“What the patient’s going to be doing is just standing still. Their goal, no matter what happens in the machine is just to stand as still as they possibly can,” says Root.
The system records in 20-second increments. First test: piece of cake.
“For the next test, you’re going to look straight ahead, but this time you’re going to close your eyes,” says root.
No taking steps or touching walls. That’s considered a fall. If I sway, the walls shake or the floor rocks depending on the cycle.
I’ve always hated doing that with my eyes closed.
Unsettling at first, it gets easier.
“Perfect; you can open your eyes,” says Root.
I passed, but many people don’t. These tests can pinpoint their deficits. So therapists can customize treatment.
“If they have inner ear problems where we determine from the gait stabilization tests, we might be do exercises where they’re focused on targets where they’re moving their head. Standing, balance activates where they’re standing on firm surfaces, softer compliant surfaces, walking surfaces and trying to maintain their balance,” says Root.
With the proper help people are making great strides.
“We have patients that are scared to leave the house because they’re fearful of falling and going through therapy we can have them get back out shopping and golfing and going to restaurants,” says root.