Education can balance seniors’ risk of falling

Day by Day
Education can balance seniors’ risk of falling

By LIZ THOMPSON

August 1, 2017

This Week News

Watching children intentionally fall on the ground, doing somersaults and hand springs, is delightful. They might end up with a scratch or two, but it’s all a part of childhood.

Falling in love is another way to fall painlessly. We retell the stories over and over again, like children doing somersaults.

Too many years have passed to remember when I fell down intentionally.

Now when I fall, it’s an accident — and I end up with a lot more than scratches. I have broken bones, bruises and aches and pains that last for weeks.

I adapt daily to stay upright and encourage others to do the same.

Ohio statistics are discouraging: In 2014, Ohioans age 65 and older accounted for 84 percent of deaths by falling and 74 percent of nonfatal fall hospitalizations.

More than 60 percent of these falls happen in the home.

Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in Ohio residents in this same age group. Usually when I fall, I hit my head, which terrifies me. It makes me rethink how I motivate through my day. I’m selective about when and where I go outside the home.

Each week, there are more than 1,500 emergency department visits, close to 400 hospitalizations and 22 deaths due to fall injuries of this same Ohio population.

In 2015, 537,222 of Ohio adults ages 65 and older reported having fallen.

According to the National Council on Aging’s STEADI project, causes of falling include leg weakness, mobility problems, balance issues, poor vision, multiple medications and risky behavior.

“Risky behavior” in this population can mean, as we age, we forget we can’t do things the way we had for many years. It becomes unsafe to carry heavy items while walking, to use ladders, or to stand up and walk before we’re ready.

It’s not worth the risk.

I’ve learned that when I ask for help, most people lend a hand with a smile. They want to help, but don’t know what to do.

Risk factors we can modify include removing clutter and tripping hazards; adding grip bars near commodes and in showers and tubs; installing handrails on staircases; and improving lighting. Those who need mobility aids should use them.

I no longer worry about how I look using a cane, walker or one of my motorized chairs. I’m in the age bracket I’m writing about, not just one of thousands with multiple sclerosis and other conditions that give us reasons to use assistance — conditions that also add to our likelihood of falling.

Do I always listen to my own advice? No.

The phrase “Too soon old, too late smart” suits me, yet I’m determined to become determined about each step I take.

The Upper Arlington Commission on Aging is partnering with Mount Carmel Health to present information on the topic of fall prevention and balance. The free program is set from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 20 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road.

Quality of life diminishes once a fall occurs. Prevention is an important key to aging well, and that is one goal of these speakers at the program.

Dr. Victor Dizon, trauma medical director, will present a case scenario involving an older person who fell and sustained multiple injuries to demonstrate how badly someone can be injured from a “simple fall.”

Audiologist Lisa Hansel will discuss an underlying and treatable balance impairment that may cause falling.

Angie Caplinger, a physical therapist, will conduct balance screenings to assess people’s ability to maintain balance in various conditions. The screening indicates if a person is at risk for falling.

Lori Candon, who practices inner nature yoga, will have a short tai chi demonstration between educational speakers. Tai chi has been shown to help improve balance.

Registration is required; call 614-583-5326 by Sept. 13.

“Fall” in line to learn more. With knowledge and care we can lower the statistics and live more fully.

‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty

‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty

By Liz Thompson
July 3, 2017
ThisWeekNews

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college — her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her — this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 — but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are — they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center (http://familyyouthlaw.org/fyac.php) for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network. (http://www.cscc.edu/about/ssi/)

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County (Ohio) alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email info@fosteractionohio.org.

 

 

Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.

 

 

Communities shouldn’t forget fostered youths

Communities shouldn’t forget fostered youths

May 8, 2017

By Liz Thompson

This Week News

At age 18, I had a home and family. I still do, 47 years later.

But each year, more than 23,000 18-year-olds age out of the foster-care system, never having been adopted, with neither home nor family.

That is more than the population of Worthington and Canal Winchester combined.

Don’t believe the myth that children are in foster care because they have done something wrong. They are victims who were removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. In 2015, almost 428,000 children were in foster care in the U.S. These children dream of an enduring home.

Ohio Fostering Connection shows grim statistics on Ohio youths aged out of foster care: By age 19, 14 percent have a child; 24 percent work full time; 12 percent work part time; 26 percent had been homeless; 36 percent had been incarcerated; and 53 percent had not finished high school or received their GED.

Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said she quotes the foundation’s namesake every day: “These children are not someone else’s responsibility — they are our responsibility.”

Deborrha Armstrong, communications director with Franklin County Children Services, said the goal of the agency’s Youth Transition Program is to assist youth 16 and older to live independently.

“During this time, case workers are still a contact for youth,” Armstrong said. “Some families opt to keep children after 18, providing housing and life-skill instruction as a host home. Many more are needed to serve in this capacity or as foster parents.”

Many, at 18, just want out.

“Many opt out of the emancipation transitional program thinking they can do it on their own — they want out of the (welfare) system,” Soronen said.

Ann Bischoff, executive director of Ohio State University’s Star House, agreed with Soronen. The Star House is a drop-in center for people in transition, ages 14-24, who are experiencing homelessness.

“We have a place for everybody,” she said. “Our goal is to establish a relationship with the youth and then help them seek permanent solutions.”

At Star House, young people are able to do laundry, eat, rest, bathe and receive clothing. It also is a place to connect to the services available through other agencies that provide educational, health, financial and food subsidies along with chances to build job-seeking skills.

“Imagine being 18 and walking into a shelter with 110 grown men,” said Sue Villilo, executive director of Faith Mission. “We have a partnership with Huckleberry House to help young adults with the transition into shelter.”

The Huckleberry House has a transitional living program that provides a safe, furnished place to stay for 12 to 18 months while residents work on independent living skills, along with counseling to help with educational and employment goals.

“They shouldn’t have to come back (anywhere) and ask for help,” Soronen said. “Many think, ‘Was I not good enough to be adopted?’ ”

People considering fostering or adoption often fear they won’t get the support they need or feel like they’re jumping into the unknown.

“The adults need to genuinely believe it’s worth it to give a child a home and consider the child’s needs before their own,” Soronen said.

Children Services’ mentoring program helps teens and college-age youths feel connected with positive adult role models in the community.

“We need to bring community back for our children and families. This used to be natural in neighborhoods,” Armstrong said.

“We have a moral obligation to provide a safety net and the core of a safe community for our children,” Soronen said.

Call one of these numbers or visit the websites: mentoring, Children Services, 614-275-2690; foster parenting and serving as a host home, fostercare.fccs.us; adoption, davethomasfoundation.org or 800-275-8832; Star House, 614-826-5868; Huckleberry House 24/7 crisis hotline, 614-294-5553; transitional living program, 614-294-8097.

 

Why write? Motives vary; need universal

Day by Day
Why write? Motives vary; need universal

April 10, 2017
This Week News

By Liz Thompson

I pushed the loaded cart of ancient records, videotapes and books into the used bookstore.

Standing at the cash register, where employees would look through my personal stash and give me a dollar value, I saw books piled so high, they looked as though a breeze would topple them.

Late author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out. What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line. It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

I was overwhelmed — and as a writer, a little discouraged — by the number of books I saw, all these “hopes and dreams” people had put to paper, tape or film. I wondered about my own motivation to write.

I love writing — but bestsellers? Not likely. I write to inspire and inform.

I posted this question on a Goodreads author group: “What motivates you to write with so much competition?”

Sue, who lives in Canada, replied, “My motivation in writing my first book was my desire to achieve wellness. (My book) was never written with the intention to become a bestseller, but rather to reach those who could benefit from the information … and for those who did read it, that is exactly what they reported that it has done for them … mission accomplished.”

Leonide, an Oregon resident, said it seems the world has enough books, so why write another to add to the excess?

“I continue to write books because it is a creative drive inside of me that demands expression,” she said. “There are stories that simmer within and insist on being cooked fully and set out for the feast. Whether they get consumed and appreciated is outside my control.”

She markets, like most authors.

“I certainly hope others will read and enjoy my books; writing the book itself is the most important thing,” she said.

Jim, a cartoonist, said, “As a kid, once a week I would head down to the bookstore for a portal into another world. Every week I’d get to tour an exotic location and imagine another life. I just want to give that experience to someone else.”

Lily in San Francisco writes because if she doesn’t, she feels as if part of her has checked out.

“It’s as important to me as food,” she said. “The words are like a communion wafer that melts on my tongue, nourishing body and soul.

“Writing itself is a mysterious act. Putting symbols on a page not only connects us with our own inner worlds but also with others.”

Kate loves used bookstores.

“I still remember the joys of rooting through the secondhand book shop … hunting for a Georgette Heyer novel that I didn’t already have (since they were out of print). Sheer joy to find one and hold it close … until I got it safely home. It was a ticket to another world.

“We authors capture what’s in our heads in words. Black on white. It has no substance until the reader re-creates the people and the world inside their own head. It’s a kind of miracle. No images provided … only words, yet their imagined movie of your book will have scenery, props and characters fashioned by them from just words.

“With 7 billion people on the planet, there’s a good chance that at least one of those people will connect with your story.”

Don of New York said, “I must write, and I even wake in the middle of the night to pen down a thought that comes to me, or risk losing an amazing idea for a story or a book.”

Rita, who lives in Australia, said simply, “I write because I can!”

I left the bookstore $5 richer. My discouragement fled soon after and new words swirled in my head.

A writer friend a little closer to home, Janet Shailer of Grove City, said, “My mind always has ideas flying around, like a plane waiting for clearance to land.”

Eventually, our ideas land and words appear on the page. And so our story begins.

I might fall, but I won’t lie down for MS

Day by Day

I might fall, but I won’t lie down for MS

March 13, 2017

ThisWeekNews

By LIZ THOMPSON

Falling is hard. Suddenly my body is moving downward, either forward or backward, with nothing to grab onto to stop the fall. Impact is imminent and it will be painful.

I fall like a tree in the forest.

For some reason, many with multiple sclerosis don’t have the ability to react fast enough to fold our bodies for a closer fall or recover from a stumble, like the average person would.

I do know that imbalance, weakness and muscle spasms cause most of my falls. Other people with MS might have vision and fatigue problems.

Last year, I fell too often and fear of falling became my new reality. I’ve overcome that fear before.

After this last series of falls, I thought back at what I was doing when I fell to determine how to prevent a repeat.

I came to these five conclusions: I must always touch something when leaning over; carry nothing while walking; use my cane or walker; scope the landscape before that first step; and ask for help.

If you have ever fallen or watched someone fall when you couldn’t help them, you understand that helplessness is part of the pain.

All through our lives, we adapt — most of it’s good. Change and challenges are a part of life.

People with chronic illnesses, such as MS, tend to look at life with a unique perspective. As our illnesses wax and wane at their own volition, daily we learn to see what’s most important and are in a constant state of adaptation.

I see my circumstances as positive, urging me to make the most of each moment. When people ask how I am, I hope to be able to say, “I’m upright!”

So if you don’t have MS or know someone with it, why would you want to read about it? By writing about it, or sharing my experiences, I hope to build a bridge to understanding.

Years ago, when my daughter was in nursing school, some nurses were quietly joking about another nurse who walked like she had been drinking alcohol. My daughter saw this and asked them, “Did you ever think she might have MS?” I don’t know their response, but I knew my daughter showed compassion.

It’s easier to jump to conclusions than to learn the facts.

My MS was diagnosed in 1987 when I lost partial vision. Hindsight tells me I had symptoms as early as 1970. In 1987, there were no disease-modifying drugs for MS, proven to slow down relapses; now there are 14. There was no Internet. Today, patients easily can become overwhelmed with information. I always suggest to newly diagnosed people to talk with their doctors, and those with MS to visit nmss.org.

MS isn’t contagious. The immune system thinks the myelin sheath (a substance that protects nerve fibers) in the central nervous system, as well as the nerve fibers themselves, are foreign objects and attacks them, causing damage. The signals from the brain to parts of the body are interrupted, like a frayed electrical cord. The result can be vision loss, numbness, weakness, spasticity, motor-skill problems, fatigue and more, with varied degrees of disability.

My worst relapse since diagnosis was in the early 1990s. The numbness started in my toes and moved up my body. In a matter of minutes, my entire body was numb.

Six weeks later, the numbness disappeared, except for my right hand and forearm.

But I can’t live in a rubber room, so to speak. I have to be smarter than this disease and constantly reinvent how I go about doing the things I love.

I still cook, bake, garden, knit, read, write, visit and go to church, and I “walk” the dog using my scooter or power wheelchair to get around safely. Learning to adapt is part of life. I don’t sit home crying or being sedentary. That works against all reasoning for physical and emotional health.

I am one of more than 2.3 million worldwide living with MS. March is MS Awareness Month. The next time you see someone walking “funny,” offer a strong arm or a listening ear. That’s the kind of help we all need.

A century in, service still vital for Lions

Day by Day

A century in, service still vital for Lions

Feb 13, 2017

By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews

This year marks 100 years of service for the Lions Club International, the world’s largest service organization.

A total of 46,000 clubs with more than 1.4 million members — men, women and youth — do whatever is needed to help their local communities.

In 1917, a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones, whose personal code was, “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,” founded the Lions Club International. The slogan, an acronym, became “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety.”

In 1925, Helen Keller (See photo at end) challenged Lions at the club’s convention at Cedar Point.

“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: to foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. … Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”

Her speech marked the beginning of an era of vision service and support that would come to define Lions for decades.

Bill Schultz, chairman of the Ohio Lions Marketing and Communications Committee, said the club will re-enact the speech during May’s State Lions Convention in Sandusky. Canal Winchester member Jackie Christensen will present the speech in character as Keller, Schultz said.

Locally, the Westerville Lions Club was chartered in 1928 and is the oldest service organization in Westerville.

“This past Christmas, at our holiday gathering/meeting, we found out about two families in need and on the spur of the moment we passed the hat and raised $400 to provide a better Christmas for those families,” said Lion Howard Baum. “The generosity of our members is amazing.”

Mike Kerek of Reynoldsburg said, “Being a Lions Club member … is an attitude, a belief, in service to others.”

Since 1948, the Reynoldsburg club has raised more than $500,000 to be reinvested into the community.

Although helping those with vision problems is their main focus, each club looks for what is needed in its community.

Kerek said his club supports a plethora of organizations, including Special Olympics, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Pilot Dogs, disaster relief foundations, eye banks and vision-related business. Club members also have made several trips to West Virginia with donations for flood relief.

“As a Lion since 1999, I have had many moments where the intrinsic rewards made me understand how important the services we provide are,” Kerek said.

Bob Scheetz of Worthington said his dad was a charter member of the Lions Club for 30 years in his hometown of West Lafayette.

“Clubs focus on needs of their particular community,” he said. “Our club (also) has a focus on the Worthington Food Pantry and young children’s literacy through Worthington Libraries. We sponsor the Worthington Summer Reading Program.”

Duane Shaul said the Grove City club began in 1939. Every year, its members set aside funds to be able to help someone get a Pilot Dog. The cost is $10,000. Each week, Shaul and others walk Pilot Dog puppies, helping them learn social skills.

“I would love to let more people know who we are and what we do,” Shaul said. “We do not keep any funds for administrative expenses.”

This club helped fund e-sight goggles — computerized goggles with a camera that relays images to the brain — for a blind Grove City student to see his parents for the first time.

Bob Dotson has been a member since 1998, starting in Athens County before he moved to Powell. The Olentangy Lions Club is four years old.

“Many hands make light work,” Dotson said. “The biggest need of Lions, and other service organizations, is members. Get involved. Make a difference.”

My personal interest in Lions began in 1997 when they trained my first Hearing Dog, then my second in 2009.

I was delighted by the enthusiasm of these members who gave me an abundance of information. Since I cannot write it all here, I encourage you to seek information at lionsclubs.org, support their fundraisers and donate eyeglasses.

As Dotson said, “Maybe you can be the one person that makes a difference in someone’s life.”

 

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29. Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29.
Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.