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At Prestige, our Wellness Coaches lead the fitness programming that keeps our residents fit and strong, helping them to reduce falls. They play a vital role in ensuring our residents live life to the fullest and stay safe.
In this blog, we interview Sofia De La Cruz, the wellness coach at Prestige Assisted Living at Mira Loma about her background, her approach to working with residents on fall prevention, and success stories at her community.
Can you tell us how you got to your position as a Wellness Coach at Prestige?
Sofia De La Cruz: “I moved to Nevada in 2001 and started teaching, but I wanted something different. I met a friend of mine who worked here and he recommended it. When the Executive Director that used to be here before told me, ‘Hey, we have a wellness coach position, would you be interested?’, I said sure. So I went to school, got my wellness coach certification, and from there I got my nutrition certification and certified in senior exercise. I love what I do.”
What are some common goals that a lot of your residents have?
SDLC: “Some of them of course have issues with their knees, their shoulders, their grip, so I try to concentrate on those things for them. At the same time, I want to give them strength and balance, because those are issues that us as adults and older adults need to concentrate on.”
How does the fitness programming work at your community?
SDLC: “We do three classes during the week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Monday I do an Energize class… We do a lot of arm work and a lot of leg work.
On Wednesday we only concentrate on fall prevention, which is a lot of balance exercises. They stand up, we take a break, we sit down, we go back up, do the next exercise, and it works. If you see my class, they’re incredible and I’m very proud of all of them. And also in that same class on Wednesday, we teach them how to use their walkers and their canes, and for those that are in wheelchairs they still do the exercises sitting down.
And then on Friday we do Ageless Grace®, which is 21 brain-body fitness tools. And then we also have a walking club. Every day we have a board downstairs in our lobby, and they go around the building inside, and they walk and they mark it. They write down how many laps they took around the building. And then once a week we all go to the courtyard and we take four laps. When it’s winter we do it inside, but when summertime comes, we try to do it outside, even though the summers here in Vegas are very brutal, but they love the sun.
I’ve gotten more people involved and we have a very good turnout in all of our exercise classes. And one resident talks to another, and then that one talks to another and they keep joining and joining in. And honestly, the Wednesday class for fall prevention is one of my biggest classes.”
Can you tell us a bit more about what you do in the fall prevention classes?
SDLC: “We focus on balance exercises. We do mini squats, we do leg lifts, we do side-to-side leg kicks. We also do work on our calves. We teach them how to stand up from a chair, just balance in general… They love it. We start off easy, but I have people that have been in this class for over a year, so as we go, it kind of progresses with them, so the ones new joining in, they’re saying, ‘Wow, this is a workout.’
Also, we concentrate on their apartments, we try to make sure there’s nothing in the way when they’re coming into their apartment. Sometimes residents leave newspapers on the floor, so we go around and check to see that everything is clear for them to walk. Also, sometimes they like to connect things from one room to the other side of the room. We try to make sure none of those cords are on the floor. We try to do anything we can to prevent falls because our goal is to not have any.”
What are some of the success stories you’ve had with your residents?
SDLC: “We have prevented so many falls in the last two years that I am amazed actually. We haven’t had any falls with the people who do the exercises regularly. We haven’t had any issues. We actually had a lady who was in a wheelchair for seven years, she started doing her wellness three times a week and she actually started walking. She got out of the wheelchair, became very independent and actually moved out.
And then I have a 92-year-old gentleman who also used to be in a wheelchair. He had ended up in the hospital because of a fall. And now, I can say he’s one of the strongest 92-year-olds that I’ve ever seen. I have a weight machine here, and he does up to 50 pounds on weights, and if I let him go, he’ll keep going. And he’ll do the seated elliptical machine for 15 minutes with no problem, 60-pound weights on his legs. And when he started with me, he couldn’t even lift five pounds. So, it’s a very big difference.
Then I have one gentleman right now that I’m working with, he fell when he got out of his car and broke his hip. They brought him here and I’ve been working with him, and he’s walking and does his exercises. He’s 96 years old, and he does his exercises very well. He knows that he’s gotten stronger, so he’s loving it. He said, ‘If I would’ve known this, then I would’ve been doing all this work before.’
I have a couple of them who have had injuries and gotten back on their feet. So it’s very rewarding when you see them accomplish what they want to accomplish.”
You mentioned residents with walkers and canes earlier, can you tell us how you work with them on fall safety?
SDLC: “A lot of them with walkers especially, they hold on to the walker for dear life and push their backs forward and they start getting shoulder problems. And I just tell them, a walker’s a guide. It’s not to hold your weight, it’s to help you and guide you where you are walking.
And I try to let my residents know, look forward and look up, don’t look down because you only see the area where you are walking in. And when you’re looking forward, you have a massive area to look at. So if there are things in the way or if you need to turn, it just guides you better. So we do teach them how to walk with a walker as a guide, not as them leaning on it or putting so much pressure that you hear them complaining about their hands and their shoulders and their back. We show them how to posture themselves and how to hold the walker. Sometimes they come with a walker and they’re set too high, so we bring it down a little bit so they don’t have so much pressure in their arms.”