Third year DPT student, Brent Jensen, works with a client.

Earlier this month, the Department of Physical Therapy held their annual balance screenings for older adults. The screenings, coordinated through the Senior Awareness & Fall Education (SAFE) Central Valley Coalition, helped to assess strength, balance and risk for falling for 38 clients, age 65 and up.

California currently has the largest older adult population of any state in the USA. In Fresno County alone, falling causes 75% of injuries to seniors over 60 years of age. Formed in 2011, the mission of SAFE is to increase awareness of the physical, psychological and economic impact of falls on individuals – and to train current and future medical professionals about the importance of early screenings and intervention.

“The great thing about these quarterly balance screenings is that it allows for inter-professional collaboration amongst the various departments within the College of Health and Human Services”, said Dr. Peggy Trueblood, chair in the Department of Physical Therapy.

The screenings that took place this semester included second year students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and nursing students specializing in community health. These students led the hour-long assessments (held at the Gait, Balance and Mobility Research, Education, and Training Center) that incorporated the expertise of both departments.

Nursing students performing intake of clients.

Nursing students were the first to meet the clients, checking their blood pressure and medical history, while physical therapy students observed. The nursing students also looked at the potential risk factors in clients that may cause falls, including signs of depression and physical/emotional weakness.

Third year DPT student, Jason Prestosa, goes over screening results with a client.

Next, the clients met with the DPT students who performed a variety of tests that screened for gait, strength, balance and leg strength. Their experience allowed them to perform subjective screenings, in which they were able to identify if the client had a fear of falling, which can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. The DPT students were also able to recommend home exercise programs, home safety tactics and refer clients to physicians for further screenings if needed.

A new collaboration this year was the addition of pharmacy students from California Health Sciences University, who provided clients with an overview of their prescribed medication.

An added bonus is that community nursing students will even make a home visit for the client for a follow-up visit or in the case of increasing problems.

Trueblood said inter-professional collaboration is important, as it teaches students the importance of working as a team.

“Not only do they learn about different disciplines, but they also get to integrate different practices into their training,” said Trueblood. “It is great to take a team approach in projects like the balance screenings.”

Balance screenings are held two times per semester. For more information on the SAFE balance screening dates for spring 2015 or to sign up for a balance screening, visit or call 559.278.7539.

View this clip to learn more about SAFE.