8600 Old Georgetown Road | Bethesda, MD 20814

New Directions

Issue: Summer 2010

When Good Health Hangs in the Balance

Top: Jennifer Werdell, Clinical Coordinator of Physical Therapy, monitors Ralph Golden in the Balance Master. Bottom: Jewell Golden maneuvers cones and uneven stepping during a therapy session.

Ralph and Jewell Elizabeth Golden have struck a great balance in life. Celebrating 57 years of marriage this month, they have two children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Mrs. Golden is a licensed clinical social worker who, at almost 82, still maintains a private practice in Rockville and offers her services at Asbury Methodist Retirement Village in Gaithersburg, Catholic Charities in Wheaton, and Ephesians Life Ministries in Silver Spring. At 87, Mr. Golden is a retired chemist who worked at the Naval Medical Research Institute, Food & Drug Administration, and today helps maintain the couple’s second home in Virginia.


But striking another kind of balance was a growing concern for the Rockville couple. “We noticed that our physical balance wasn’t so good,” says Mr. Golden.


Mrs. Golden adds she was growing increasingly afraid of falling, especially when stepping off curbs. And she had good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States. Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.


So the Goldens, in relative good health with no history of falling, decided to be proactive. They were referred by Dr. Aruna Nathan to Suburban Hospital’s Balance Program, where a team of trained physical therapists and physical therapy assistants use specially-designed technology and equipment to work one-on-one with patients to help improve their balance.


“There are many reasons for balance disorders and they are different for every person,” says Jennifer Werdell, Clinical Coordinator of Physical Therapy. “The Goldens were smart to recognize the danger before one of them had a fall.”


Werdell and her therapists create a treatment program unique to each person. To assess balance, they use the Smart Balance Master™, a technology that began as a research tool by NASA to study the effects of gravity after weightlessness on astronauts returning from space. While a patient stands in the large box-like structure, therapists can turn on and off a variety of simulated conditions. The patient’s response to the changing conditions is charted through dynamic posturography, giving the therapists the information they need to tailor the patient’s therapy. 


The information sometimes surprises the patient. “To me, learning about my balance was an ‘aha’ moment,” said Mrs. Golden. “I have pretty good balance; the fear was mostly in my head.”


Objective balance improvements were measured with the Smart Balance Master™ in both patients in relation to stability and dynamic movement. Incremental improvements go a long way in helping patients gain confidence. Both Goldens agree that the renewable 4-week program gave them exactly what they needed to help them stay on their feet.

Mr. Golden, who enjoys studying human behavior says, “I’m not planning to feel old, no matter how old I get!”


To Learn More | Visit www.suburbanhospital.org and click on Orthopedic Care or call Jennifer Werdell at 301-896-7549.


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