Patients have been taking part in a group set up to address the ageing population of service users across Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW).
After recognising there is an ageing population in the Trust’s secure services, staff set up a ‘balance’ group to encourage movement among older service users.
Ran as an 18-week programme over 12 months, the group is due to finish this month. Using a multi-discipline approach, the aim of the group is to help maintain and increase people’s independence.
As people get older there is a decrease in strength, endurance and agility which can result in increased risk of falling and decreased mobility. People with a learning disability are at a higher risk of falling throughout their lives than individuals in the general population.
Gillian Watters, advanced physiotherapist at CNTW, said: “We recognised that some service users had an increased risk of falling so set up the group to improve both balance and physical health.
“Balance plays a vital role in allowing individuals to move and function independently and it’s important that service users are encouraged to stay as independent as they can be.”
The programme was delivered in three different sections which increased in intensity, from ward-based chair exercises, progressing to resistance exercises at Northgate Hospital gym, culminating in sessions at Walkergate Park’s hydrotherapy pool. The pool sessions – a favourite of the service users – helped them to push themselves to do things they wouldn’t normally do on land for fear of falling.
Ran by advanced physiotherapist Gillian, specialist occupational therapist Ciara Dobbin and sports fitness lead Andy Murray, with support from other staff, each session ended on a game that tested balance and coordination.
Gillian added: “The progress members of the group have made has surpassed our expectations. Staff have noticed increased confidence in those that have taken part and it has also served as a reminder to staff to encourage patients to keep active.
“Feedback has been positive, with service users saying they feel like they’re getting stronger and fitter and are finding physical movements easier.”
Dennis Davison, Associate Director for Secure Care Services at CNTW, said: “The balance group is a great initiative and an example of staff recognising a problem in the service and coming up with a solution.
“I’m really pleased with the progress the group has made and look forward to it continuing to provide additional support to our service users.”
After running the sessions for a small group as a pilot, staff are looking to start another group in March once service users have been identified to take part. Service users will be selected based on their falls risk, physical activity levels and age.
Secure care services are part of CNTW, a provider of mental health and learning disability services in the North East and North Cumbria.