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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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.