Falls prevention course helps people back on their feet

28 January 2019

Life has been difficult in recent times for Julie Gallagher who has a long term health condition that has prevented her from being able to stand unaided.

She suffers from a long term neuropathy in her lower legs, a disease in the peripheral nerves which causes numbness or weakness. It has meant she has been unable to stand in her kitchen to make food, has struggled to get around and was having to shower sitting down.

However, the start of the New Year is bringing a new start for Julie from Winsford, after she embarked on a Council-funded falls prevention course. 

Better Balance - Falls Prevention is run for 25 weeks by our partners Brio Leisure to help people improve their core and legs strength and balance. It implements Otago Exercise Programme (OEP), an internationally renowned and evidence based programme designed to decrease falls in older people by improving function, strength and balance. 

Julie said: “I have got limited feeling because of the neuropathy but it will take a long time for that to heal. Doing this course and being shown exercises to develop the strength in your core has improved the way that I get around. I feel the benefit of building the strength of my muscles. It has made a massive difference to me.

“At home in the kitchen my husband has to do the majority of the cooking. More recently I have been able to stand and prepare things because my core is stronger. I have also been able to get in and out of the shower more safely. For people who have difficulties it does make a big difference.”

Also attending the course, Sylvia Clarke of Winsford said: “I had three falls. The first one I broke my shoulder, then I broke my ankles and then the third one I broke my wrist and fingers.  I used to be tripping and falling.

“There is a difference since doing this course. I used to trip a lot, not fall but trip. I have stopped doing this now because of this course and because my balance is better. I am not looking forward to it finishing; I think it should be a longer course. I don’t want it to end.”

Programme leader Tomoko Forrest from Brio Leisure said: “We use chairs as a support. We progress from the easier exercise to the harder exercise. As people’s balance and strength improves we reduce the amount of support with the chair.

“One of the very important parts of this course is to teach people how to “regain” balance when they lose it before they fall. We teach “the recovery step” so if someone loses balance and get unsteady, they will know how to recover by themselves by stepping out and regaining the control. The course implements OEP Programme, series of structured activities designed to improve strength and balance in older people. ”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “Many people struggle with maintaining their core strength as they get older. This results in people falling at home and when they are out and becoming injured. It is more difficult for elderly people to recover quickly and they often require longer periods of recovery in hospital.

“One of the workstreams of the Winsford Whole Place Programme focuses on improving people’s health and wellbeing. The falls prevention course offers important support for people by improving their core strength and balance. It ultimately helps people maintain their independence and live more fulfilling lives.” Jess Jeffreys, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Brio Leisure, said: “Brio are very pleased to be offering these falls prevention classes alongside our other health and wellbeing services for residents of Cheshire West and Chester. 

These classes not only build the participants' confidence, they also raise awareness of how to prevent falls. In many cases the participants have also formed long lasting friendships with other users too! Brio are delighted to see a number of those who have completed courses move on to similar or more advanced exercise sessions at our sites!”

Sylvia added: “I think it is a fantastic way of getting older people to be more active and they need to be. Old age comes very quickly and you need to be as active as you can be. I am not terribly active, not as active as I thought I was going to be at this age but I think it would be worse if I wasn’t doing the classes.”

Julie added: “I am dependent on my husband. If I go anywhere I am dependent on another person to go with me. I am mentally alright but I am at risk of falling. If people like me haven’t got anyone at home to help them then they don’t get out because they are frightened of falling. 

I take my hat off to the Council. I didn’t even know that the Council was involved in this. I had been referred by the doctor and met Tomoko and she thought this course would be suitable to me. For the Council to be putting money into the welfare of older to enable them to be more independent is brilliant.”

To access the course, people need to be aged 65 or over and referred by either their GP or a health care professional. 


Julie Gallagher

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