Insights on Fall Prevention: Meet Deborah Jones

The Synergy Series Continues this April 2024: Pacific Northwest Pilates Education and Melanie Byford-Young unite from April 5 – 7, 2024 with a focused theme: “Pilates for an Active Aging Population.” Led by top experts in the field, this year’s event offers tailored workshops and sessions designed to empower instructors with the knowledge and tools needed to guide vibrant older adults through their Pilates practice.

Addressing the importance of balance in preventing falls, Deborah Jones, a Physical Therapist and geriatric specialist, will present live-streamed on Zoom as a guest lecturer on Melanie Byford-Young Education on Saturday, April 6  from 9:15 – 11:15 a.m. PST. She will delve into the key tests she uses to assess fall risk, focusing on the eyes, vestibular system, and proprioceptive system. Her demonstration of evaluating fundamental movement patterns and strategies to improve balance and movement quality will be invaluable for Pilates and movement specialists. Following this, Melanie Byford-Young will lead a discussion addressing these issues with Pilates-based exercises and critical reasoning. This interactive session aims to bridge the gap between clinical settings and community-based Pilates, equipping instructors with practical tools and strategies for their clients’ successful aging journey with strength and grace.

Meet Deborah Jones—PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, ATP

Deborah Jones brings over 25 years of experience as a physical therapist, starting her career at Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Southern California. She has worked across acute, home health, long-term care, and currently in outpatient services at Bridgeport Providence Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine since 2007. In 2016, she earned her Clinical Doctorate for physical therapy and is board-certified in geriatric clinical specialization, pelvic health, assistive technology, and the Franklin Method. Her extended education includes concussion and vestibular rehabilitation, and she serves as a neuroscience pain educator for Providence.

As we age, our bodies change, and lifestyle choices, injuries, and issues accumulate. The desire to feel strong, capable, and dynamic remains constant, and research shows that strength, mobility, balance, and body confidence are keys to successful aging. Exercise choices must evolve to support each client’s needs, especially in addressing balance impairment, which can stem from various factors. Debbie will discuss and demonstrate the key tests she uses in fall risk assessments, focusing on the eyes, vestibular system, and proprioceptive system.

Q: What motivated you to specialize in balance disorders?

DJ: My interest and motivation to focus on balance and fall risk is to identify and begin interventions to improve the multi-factorial balance system with full body assessments for a variety of dysfunctions and to reduce the potential of falls. Falls are a major health risk and can lead to devastating outcomes. Identifying when people are at risk can reduce health care dollars spent and increase independence as we age. Muscular and skeletal changes and function are important to assess: looking at the person as a whole to determine areas to focus on for dynamic and optimum upright balance.

The vestibular system, ocular system and sensor-motor system are 3 main areas affecting balance. My journey with continuing education and training to effectively evaluate and treat patients with neurological diagnosis, concussion, vestibular/ocular impairment, and the sensory-motor system dysfunction has allowed me the ability to treat a variety of patients. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn. The human body is a complete system and is designed to protect and self-preserve. The balance system is important as we are neurologically designed to protect and self preserve.

My interest in geriatric population led to my board-certified status as a clinical specialist.

Q: What do you see is commonly missed with patients who are at risk of falling?

DJ: There are several areas that may be missed by all persons/providers interacting with the person at risk for falls. The person my have a “fear” of falling that increases risk. They may have an ageism attitude and consider some aspects as a normal part of aging.  There are well developed tools that are used by the medical team to determine fall risk called the STEADI. It the person is identified as a risk for falls, they are sent to the appropriate person for further assessment.

In my practice and now with scientific evidence, I find that vestibular or ocular issues are not identified and contribute to falls. Another area of interest is urge with urine and rushing to the toilet has been identified as a possible fall risk. Medication, being over-medicated, timing of medications, lack of hydration. Low blood pressure, etc….

Q: What are some key indicators that should trigger a Pilates professional to refer their client to a balance specialist?

DJ:  As a Pilates instructor, the observation of movement and balance is important and most likely part of the program for your client. A referral to a PT for balance instruction and evaluation would be appropriate for any person who is not progressing in Pilates program or if you observe or note complaints of dizziness, light-headedness or “spinning” sensation. Also, any postural instability while standing or walking. Of course, the usual red flags of sudden changes in movement/cognition or complaints of brain fog, memory and/or speech/language changes may trigger a more urgent health care visit to determine neurological changes.

Q:Why is it so important to understand specific tests for the vestibular system, ocular system and reflexes?

DJ:  Specific tests give the practitioner a look into the mechanism that could be contributing to their balance dysfunction. Tests can assist with diagnosis or tease out problem areas to trigger a referral to another health care provider. The vestibular/ocular systems can be affected by many mechanisms. Sometimes it is medications or medication changes, progressive disease processes, lack of exercise or falls/concussion. Therefore, it is important to assess these areas by using subjective and objective tests and assessments to determine possible cause for symptoms.

Q: What are some things you really hope movement professionals will take away from this workshop?

DJ: The goal of this presentation is to increase awareness of possible causes for balance dysfunction. I hope participants will leave with a broader understanding of the balance system— to increase awareness of tests used to identify fall risk and create an individualized program to meet the needs of your client. Also, I hope participants will become more aware of symptoms that trigger medical intervention. I will share some clinical pearls for standing and sitting posture for dynamic posture and improved stability, teach specific muscles to strengthen to improve balance, and show how the pelvic floor influences balance with breathing patterns.