MS Scholars Facilitate Free From Falls Program

UNC Doctor of Physical Therapy students Cari Eicher and April Fay facilitated a pilot program called “Free from Falls” at the request of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) Greater Carolinas Chapter.

MS Scholars Facilitate Free From Falls Program click to enlarge Cari Eicher works with Free From Falls participant Roy Williford.

Eicher and Fay, who graduated in August 2012, completed the MS Standardized Training and Education Program with University Partners (MS STEP UP: UNC PT), an innovative curriculum intended to prepare physical therapists to meet the needs of patients with MS and other neuromuscular conditions.

Free from Falls, an eight-week fall prevention program developed by the NMSS, incorporated elements of discussion, exercises to enhance balance and safety, and group and individual activities.  According to Fay, the focus of the program was to “[teach] the participants about the reasons for falls, the aspects of balance, exercises that strengthen the systems involved in maintaining balance, strategies for making their environment safer, ways to navigate outdoors and in the community, options for assistive devices, and how to safely recover from a fall.”

By the end of the program, Eicher noticed that “participants were more confident when completing the exercises and performing the post testing.  They worked together to discuss their own personal problems and solutions that may have worked well for others.   They really seemed to come together as a group and rely on each other.”

Program participant, Roy Williford, age 62, of Chapel Hill was impressed by the class. “Both April and Cari did an excellent, professional, inclusive, and caring job as facilitators of the program and its participants,” Williford said.  “The audio visuals, handouts, and instructional materials were well organized and enhanced the timing and flow of the program.”

Participants have maintained contact with each other and plan to continue their informal support group.  The success of the program not only speaks well of Eicher and Fay, but also the impact of the MS STEP UP: UNC PT program.  Physical therapists provide education and treatment and promote good health and general conditioning in order to keep people with MS moving.   Because of the efforts of Eicher and Fay, Free from Falls participants are armed with the information to live healthy and balanced lives.