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.

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As we grow old, healthful habits become crucial

Day by Day

By LIZ THOMPSON
Tuesday August 23, 2016
This Week News

As we age, everyone seems so much younger. Professionals in many fields might not seem old enough to be out of college, and some drivers look younger than 16.

When we see children flying by on bikes, skateboards or on foot, we remember doing the same — oh so many years ago. We can mourn the loss of our youth or we can learn from it to be the healthiest we can be in the here and now.

We learned good habits as children: Eat our fruits and vegetables (yes, I know we all tried the trick of hiding them in our napkins, and our children thought we didn’t see them do the same), and avoid too much white bread because it offers little nutrition.

Get out there and run, swim, bike, play nicely with your friends and get your sleep.

We didn’t have sunblock lotions as we stayed active outdoors. We had only zinc oxide, which our mothers slathered on our noses and shoulders. Now, years later, some of those freckles have turned to age spots, and other suspicious-looking marks need checked.

There is sunblock now and we should use it.

Time passes, and our physical, emotional and mental needs change along with it. I think most people know what to do to be healthy, but reminders can help keep or get us on track.

Eating right means we don’t subsist on snack food. We still need vegetables, fruits, whole grains, different meat in reasonable amounts, and vitamin supplements. I have an affinity for sweets, but too much is just plain unhealthful.

Our playground has changed to venues such as recreation centers, YMCA’s, senior centers and the like. Exercise has changed, too. We may not go outside to run and skateboard, but now we can walk on a treadmill or around our neighborhood, use a stationary bike, swim and garden.

I garden sitting down — I refuse to give up getting my hands in dirt. Exercise — even as little as a few minutes an hour so we aren’t sedentary — makes us feel better, and when we move as much as our bodies allow, we have more energy and get valuable sleep.

Weight-bearing exercise such as tai chi, yoga, walking, dancing, golfing and strength training are effective and necessary ways to build our bones.

If your mobility is limited, or balance compromises these exercises, look for ways to exercise while seated. Dust off those hand weights.

If you need mobility tools such as a cane or walker, I urge you to use them to help keep you upright and move safely. It’s not giving up; it’s being smart. I have some pretty canes, practical ones and a handcrafted wooden one.

Good health isn’t only physical. Staying connected is vital for our mind and body.

I know seniors who stay active and play cards with friends; volunteer; write poetry, stories and books; teach Sunday school; take part in book or civic clubs; tutor; participate in discussion groups at their senior center; deliver Meals on Wheels; bird watch; do arts and crafts, puzzles and word games; camp; travel; or learn something new. We need to flex our mental muscles as well as the physical ones.

For the third year, the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging is holding a senior symposium. This year’s topic is “Good Habits for a Healthy Mind and Body.”

Dr. John Larry, a cardiologist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Dr. Douglas Scharre, an OSU neurologist, will discuss how to be proactive in your health to prevent diseases of the heart and mind. Rather than focusing on disease processes and health problems, this seminar will teach positive habits to keep heart and brain health in tip-top shape.

The program will run from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 21 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road. Exhibits will open at 8:30 a.m.

There is no cost to attend but reservations are required and seating is limited. To register, call 614-583-5326.

Amy Schossler, director of the UA Commission on Aging, said seniors are proactive and are interested in getting advice about steps, methods and activities to prevent illness and stay active and engaged in the community.

As we revamp our healthful habits and focus on what we can do, we can watch the younger set rush around and thank God we have the time and ability to remember when.

Time passes, and our physical, emotional and mental needs change along with it. I think most people know what to do to be healthy, but reminders can help keep or get us on track.

 

Music unlocks many emotions

Day by day
Music unlocks many emotions
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews.com
Tuesday October 7, 2014

When I was invited to a hymn sing at an assisted living home, I asked, “What hymns are you singing?” and was thrilled with the answer.

The list included what I call old, familiar songs such as Amazing Grace, When We All Get to Heaven, Love Lifted Me and a childhood favorite, This Little Light of Mine.

I was also glad I would be sitting with the residents and not leading the singing. My singing voice went south in my mid-40s when I was almost deaf, a condition that happened gradually since childhood.

Music and singing was my fervent hobby, and I often led singing at such places while playing my guitar. I had missed it and realized this particular day that, in part, I had been missing the contact with people who love visitors and music.

After two successful cochlear implants, I had hoped for restoration of my ability to grasp music, but it didn’t quite happen as I hoped.

I can understand most vocalists’ words — if they actually enunciate and sing, not what appears to be screaming into a microphone — but new music melodies are like a foreign language and quite flat.

Am I sad about that? At first I was, but my restored ability to understand speech and sounds with clarity superseded any sadness. Going from deaf to understanding about 95 percent is nothing to sniff at and I’m thankful beyond measure.

Back to music.

To my joy, 40-plus years of music are stored in my brain, and heart I believe, as music memory. If I see the words and get the first note of a song, or have the music to read, I get it and can sing.

My voice is no longer one for performing but I don’t mind singing at home or in groups. When my grandchildren were small, nothing stopped me from singing to them as I know I was sung to by my mother and grandmothers.

I can still hear the beat so my foot taps, hands clap and my soul is soothed.

Remember the show Name That Tune? Often I knew the tunes in two to five notes. So you can understand my music memory is full of good songs such as hymns, music from the 1930s (thanks to my parents) through the early 1990s that includes folk songs, show tunes, camp songs, pop, big band, songs I composed and more.
It’s a true blessing and I’m glad my brain has a lot of good information stored for easy access when needed. I don’t even need to select an app to get at it. I only need to think of a song or hear a familiar tune.

After my recent column on memory, a reader, Dana, told me about a movie that was, at the time, showing at the Drexel Theatre called, Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory .

To my chagrin, I didn’t move fast enough to attend and it has moved on to another city. Looking on the website, musicandmemory.org, I learned that music has proven to reach people with Alzheimer’s.

Not a surprise. Many memories are locked inside all of us and we need something to turn the key. In the case of music, it often unlocks memories and emotions for me.

When at the hymn sing, a woman in her 90s held up her forefinger and waved it back and forth when we sang This Little Light of Mine. I joined her in the motion and smiled remembering doing that as a child and when I taught my children the song.

Music can bring tears to my eyes from the message or a melancholy memory often marking the passing of time in my life.

After my first implant, my audiologist told me about HOPE Notes. According to the program’s website, http://hope.cochlearamericas.com/listening-tools, it is a “program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional folk, blues and country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways.”

Using both visual and auditory cues, it reminded me of how I heard music, and it improved my ability to enjoy it more.

The man who developed the program is a musician with cochlear implants. So often, adversity brings a gift and he shared his gift with others in a similar situation.

Next time you sway to a familiar tune, “count your blessings, name them one by one …”

Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia

Day by day
Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia
by Liz Thompson
Wednesday August 20, 2014
Thisweeknews.com

Where did I put my glasses? Why did I come into the kitchen?

Memory loss of any degree is worrisome. It can be a precursor to serious problems. I say my brain is a closet packed full of life’s “stuff” and I have to sort through to find what I want. I’m not alone.

Linda, 62, of Westerville recently retired from a fast-paced job and is learning to relax.

“I’ve decided it’s OK to forget the small things and just remember the most important, like picking up that grandchild or going to a doctor appointment. Forgive yourself for not remembering and enjoy what time we have left in this world,” Linda said.

Don, 71, of Columbus said, “Although I have had dementia in my family, I really don’t obsess about it. It’s one of those things over which we have little control.

“I was talking with a friend about the Hitchcock film North by Northwest,” Don said. “While we both agreed it was a classic, neither of us could remember the star who we were later told was Cary Grant. The friend who I was talking with is 66.”

“Bob,” 75, of Columbus, helps Habitat for Humanity build houses.

“I ride my bicycle whenever I can,” said Bob, who asked that his real name not be used.

When he’s not physically active, he is writing about his life. Both he and Don use calendars to track their activities but when busy, they sometimes forget things.

Bob has seen fellow scientists, family and friends struggle with dementia. Some made good choices when they recognized the onset of symptoms, while others chose to ignore them and eventually had to rely solely on others.

“My fear is that as I get older and need to have other people do things for me, I’ll accept some bogus, money-up-front offer. My question is how I will recognize that the time has come for me to turn such decisions over to one of my children,” Bob said.

According to the American Psychological Association, some memory loss is normal with aging, and some types of memory improve or stay the same. They urge people to watch for signs because physical conditions can affect the memory. These include anxiety, dehydration, depression, infections, medication, poor nutrition, psychological stress, substance abuse and thyroid problems.

Barb, 63, of Powell is proof. Multiple sclerosis affects her memory to the point where, at times, she may not know the names of family members. Yet she challenges herself physically by doing long fundraising bike rides.

Mari Dannhauer, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said dementia is a cornucopia of symptoms, not a diagnosis.

“If you get a diagnosis of dementia, ask what type it is. Ask lots of questions,” Dannhauer said. “Dementia causes short-term memory loss and confusion. Sometimes it is reversible and sometimes it is not. Alzheimer’s is the most common irreversible form of dementia.”

She urges people to see their doctor when they notice recurring problems and when others start to notice.

Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging, said the upcoming Memory and Brain Health Symposium was developed in direct response to a survey at an event sponsored by the Upper Arlington Civic Association.

“The survey asked many questions about the subjects seniors want to know more about. Overwhelmingly, two-thirds of all responses indicated that memory and brain health are a top priority,” Schossler said.

The symposium features Dr. Douglas Scharre, a cognitive neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Dr. Marla Bruns, a cognitive neurologist with Ohio Health; and Dr. Akhlaq Farooqui, a retired neurochemist.

Topics include brain health, diagnosis and treatment of dementia, and research associated with the disease. Scharre will discuss the Self-Administered Geocognitive Examination (SAGE) and have copies available for people to take; staff will be available to review and discuss the results.

The Memory and Brain Health Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road.

Registration is required by calling 614-583-5326. Seating is limited to 150 people. Free lunch and a senior expo of community organizations and businesses are included.

The majority of us will learn to live with minor memory issues and even learn to laugh about it — especially since we have company.

Now where are my keys?

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.