Caring for Seniors in South Carolina

Caring for Seniors in South Carolina

After Nan Stafford slipped on wet pavement at a fast food restaurant, she needed help recovering from a fractured hip. Stafford, 80, turned to the Geriatric Mobility Clinic, a new resource for South Carolina’s senior population.

“I was coming three times a week and then two times a week and I have loved my time here,” Stafford says. “I feel stronger and not as unstable as I was. It has been a great experience.”

With a three-year $930,429 grant from The Duke Endowment, the Palmetto Health Division of Geriatrics partnered with the University of South Carolina Physical Therapy Program to develop the facility. It opened in early 2010 at a medical plaza in downtown Columbia.

With high-tech tools and one-on-one care, the clinic helps seniors who have had a stroke, are recovering from a fall or are struggling with persistent back pain. Patients receive evaluations, gait training, neurological re-education, therapeutic exercises and physical performance tests.

The plan is to tailor programs based on research, says Dr. Jonathan Donley, a faculty member at the USC School of Medicine. As the clinic’s director, he assembed a team of experts in physical therapy, geriatric medicine, nursing, exercise science and social work.

On a recent visit, Donley demonstrated how state-of-the-art equipment helps patients gain balance and coordination. Virtual reality goggles help them prevent falls by learning how to identify obstacles when they’re walking.

The clinic’s service area – Columbia, Richland and Lexington counties – is home to some 732,480 people. Of those residents, more than 231,460 are aged 65 or older. With that number expected to grow, health officials believe geriatric mobility facilities will become even more essential in the years ahead.

Ray Miller, 85, says the care he received at the clinic has already made his life better. After his wife, Helen, had surgery two years ago, he focused on taking care of her and spent less time being active.

At the clinic, specialists helped Helen work on her balance; they helped Ray strengthen his legs and regain his energy.

“I was in pretty foul shape,” he says. “But in three months here, I’ve seen a big difference. It used to be that by 8 in the evening, my legs were so tired, I couldn’t do a thing. Here at the clinic, they have me warm up on the treadmill, then do leg presses and get on the stationary bicycle. I work up a good sweat – and I feel much stronger.”

Helen feels better, too.

“Her balance was so bad, we were always afraid that she was going to fall,” Ray says. “By learning how to walk with a cane, getting around is much better. Has our overall quality of life improved? Definitely.”

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Lin B. Hollowell III
Director of Health Care



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