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.

Help available for local seniors

Day by Day

Help available for local seniors
By Liz Thompson
ThisWeekNews

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Like it or not, we are aging, every day. When we find our first gray hair and start noticing how many stairs there are — everywhere — life starts changing.

Most of us, once settled in a home and community, want to stay there and keep our independence. To do that safely takes planning, but it can be done.

Two Ohio legislators, state Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), have taken steps to help that happen. They sponsored House Bill 84, the Ohio Home Renovation Tax Credit.

According to the legislation, it “would provide up to a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit for the costs incurred to modify an existing home.”

The bill states, “The accessibility features promoted in HB 84 represent an evidence-based prevention strategy that has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls among older adults.”

HB 84 says home modification promotes independent living. Getting the legislation passed is still in the works.

Some safety measures homeowners can take include having good lighting and working smoke alarms, clearing walkways inside and out, removing loose rugs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom/shower/tub and sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs.

If falling is an issue, especially when living alone, an optional alert system might be a good call. A person wears a bracelet or pendant with a button to push when he or she falls and needs assistance. Learning to use a cane, walker or scooter can help a person get around safely and is worth thinking about.

When help becomes a necessity, we may not know where to turn. The good news is there are answers.

The Franklin County Office on Aging has a Senior Options program that funds three suburban call centers that offer well-being checks via telephone and other services.

Judy Lewis, activity and outreach leader at the Evans Senior Center in Grove City, said its Senior Call program ( 614-277-1060) began because Jackson Township paramedics saw many seniors or people with disabilities who were alone and had few resources. They contacted her and with her help, the fire and police departments developed the program in 2004.

“We get calls from all over, not just the Grove City area, because we are in the Senior Options brochure,” Lewis said. “I can’t turn them away.”

She meets applicants in their homes to learn about their needs, when they want a phone call and to match them with the right volunteer.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity for the volunteers,” Lewis said.

Grove City offers Smart911 for residents. This free service allows citizens to create a safety profile on smart911.com for their household that includes any information they want 911 to have in the event of an emergency.

Upper Arlington offers Kind Call (614-442-4016), a telephone check-in service that is free for residents. The automated calling system tries each phone number up to three times; if there is no answer, a dispatcher tries. If that fails, a police officer checks the residence.

UA also has the File of Life program. Information pouches were mailed to residents age 60 and older to fill out with medical and contact information to display on their refrigerators. It helps emergency personnel know where to look when responding to a 911 call.

“It’s important to stay engaged physically and socially. Stay strong and have a system in place where someone checks on you. We need to watch out for each other,” said Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging.

She suggests contacting local senior centers for information and to find ways to stay involved in the community.

Westerville’s Safe Call (614-901-6790) is free to anyone who is homebound, disabled or elderly and lives within city limits or in Blendon Township. If no one answers the automated call at the set time, the call goes to a designated backup person to check on the resident. If that fails, a paramedic and police officer go to the home.

“It has no restrictions of age or need. Anyone who feels the need to receive a check-in call can sign up,” said communication technician Kippy Shurman.

Westerville Chief Fire Marshall Paris Smith-Higbie is in charge of fire inspection, investigation and public education.

“Prevention is important and we offer home fire safety inspections upon request,” he said. “We point out fire and tripping hazards and how to correct them and we make recommendations for things like handrails.”

Call (614-901-6600) to request an inspection.

These towns offer more than I can write here. Check your city offices for what might be available or contact the Franklin County Office on Aging at 614-525-5230 or officeonaging.org for more information about available assistance.

 

People with MS thrive with help, wait for cure

People with MS thrive with help, wait for cure

By                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     LIZ THOMPSON                                                                                        

ThisWeek Community NewsTuesday March 26, 2013 1:03 PM

My ankle turned and I landed in the bushes. Four people were there in seconds to help. True, I was outside our church but this has been my experience for as long as I can remember. I fall, people help. Embarrassment happens but I move on.

About 12 years ago, I wrote a column about falling in a crosswalk in downtown Columbus. The editor titled it The people of Columbus are still picking me up. This is true literally and figuratively. Strangers helped me in that crosswalk the same as my friends did last month. I’m convinced people are kindhearted and when they are able, choose to help others.

Often people aren’t sure when and how to help. These strangers and friends who helped me followed their instincts. Our attitude is one thing we can control and makes a difference in tense situations. I’m always appreciative of any help that comes my way making it easier on everyone.

Most of those I know with Multiple Sclerosis, like me, have led active and independent lives.

An MS diagnosis can knock the breath out of us and we wonder, “What’s next?” We eventually learn it’s time to ask for help whether it be information or a helping hand. In time we realize life goes on and MS isn’t always the first topic in conversation. Adapt becomes our middle name and we begin to see how to do most everything we choose but in a different way. Some things must be shelved as not worthy of our time, too risky or labor intensive.

When I was diagnosed with MS in 1987, there were no what we call “disease modifying” drugs proven to slow the progression of this neurological disease. There was no Internet and very few books published on living with the disease. So I muddled through like thousands of others had for many years.

Today someone newly diagnosed could easily become overwhelmed with information and his or her “what’s next?” takes on new meaning. We learn to weed out what works for us and learn how to get through in our own way; on our own path because each person’s MS is different. Each person is different.

James Rhodes, 43, of Powell, is a state-certified referee for high school basketball and football games. He was an amateur bodybuilder preparing for a 2005 body-building competition in New York when he experienced his first symptoms. Debilitating fatigue struck and next he suffered a stroke. This led to a lot of tests and his official diagnosis of MS. He had four months of rehabilitation.

Did he fall down and not want to get up? Or did he get up and let his friends and family help him and stand by him? He is so grateful for the latter experience. The support of his family, especially his wife, Kymberly, who has been by his side through the good and the bad times, has made all his struggles bearable.

He continues his role as a referee but took a step down in responsibilities at his workplace. He and his wife have five children between them and take each day at a time.

Thankfully, people like James and I have the National MS Society. Because of valuable research, there are now eight ADA-approved MS drugs with more on the horizon every year. Research is costly. MS is a chronic, often disabling and unpredictable disease of the central nervous system with no known cause or cure. Theory is if we find a cause, the cure would follow.

It’s not known why Ohio has a high prevalence rate of MS but the MS Society is finding out by funding more than $6.3 million in critical MS research at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic Foundation and the Ohio State University. Progress has been made toward finding ways to improve symptoms and restore function.

The more than 20,000 Ohioans we know have MS have a voice speaking for them with the Ohio Buckeye Chapter and two other Ohio chapters of the National MS Society. I volunteer with them to help give a face to MS and to speak for those who cannot. Volunteers and staff are busy year-round planning activities, contacting legislators, advocating for those of us with MS.

March is MS Awareness Month. There are at least 20,000 stories in Ohio that I could tell about living with MS. That number increases when including their families, friends and coworkers. MS affects them all.

For more information, call 1-800-FIGHTMS or go to MSohiobuckeye.org