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.