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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Archive for 'Preventing Falls'

The 4th of July is just a few days away, and families across the country are planning picnics, barbeques, and other celebrations.   If you are having an older adult join you and your family this year, here are a few things to consider in order to help them have as much fun at the outing as you do.

Heat: If you’re planning an outdoor function remember that older adults are more sensitive to heat, and because of that are more susceptible to heat stroke.  If possible, choose an area with some shade, or if that’s not possible, bring a canopy or sun umbrella from home.

Dehydration: Be sure to have a selection of non-carbonated cold drinks available to help ward off dehydration.  Water, lemonade, and Gatorade are great choices.  Popsicles work well this time of year too.

Balance: Because the ground outdoors is often uneven, and patio chairs can be slightly unsteady, balance issues can become a concern.  In order to reduce the risk of a fall, pick a level spot to put your sturdiest chair, and save that seat for the older adult in your life.  It’s helpful to minimize the amount of walking to get to the food as well.

Dementia:  If one of your loved ones has dementia, an afternoon celebration might be easier for them than an evening one.  Often times people with dementia can become more confused during the evening hours.  A smaller crowd is also less overwhelming for people with dementia.  For more tips on how to customize family gatherings for relatives with dementia, please refer to my former blogs on the topic.

A little bit of thought up front can lead to a great time for all!  Happy 4th everyone!

Firing up the grill,

Lynn

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The theme for this week is Falls Prevention.  Over the last 2 weeks I fell tripping over power cords, a colleague of mine slipped in her home, and we received several calls from new clients who were asking for help because they are recovering from…you guessed it, falls!

I think most of us think about falls prevention reactively, meaning it becomes really important to prevent another fall, after we’ve fallen at least once.  Prior to that we feel pretty much invincible.   But the truth is, it takes a long time to recover from that first fall if it was a bad one, so the time to think about falls prevention is now!

There are several different reasons people fall.  The most common causes are poor balance, clutter on the floor, inadequate lighting, wet/slippery floors, and neurological causes.  Luckily, the following preventive suggestions are helpful in most cases:  

  • Install grab bars in bathrooms
  • Pick up or tape down all throw rugs
  • Remove clutter from the floor
  • Install additional lighting if necessary
  • Be conscious of where you step on slippery surfaces
  • Work with a physical therapist to improve balance

Whether you put all of these steps in place, or only the one or two critical for you, protecting your quality of life is well worth the investment.

Measuring my bathroom for grab bars,

Lynn

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Most of us accumulate a lot of stuff throughout our lifetimes.  Even though I diligently clean out clothes closets each year, and have my kids pare down their collection of books and games, I know I’ll have to do it all again next year.   But for some people, this process of weeding out what to keep from what to throw out, sell or give away is more than just a chore; it’s an emotionally threatening task.  Those people are called hoarders.

Hoarding is not just a label made popular by the television show, neither is it just a sign of laziness.  Psychologists describe it as a condition that results from deep rooted trauma or loneliness.  Living in a home environment with stacks of belongings covering most of the floor, with only a winding trail to walk through is dangerous for anyone, including paramedics and fire fighters who need swift access in order to be able to help in an emergency.  But older adults, who may already have precarious balance, are particularly at risk. 

Often isolated and without frequent visitors, older adults may be hoarders and no one knows until that person has a crisis, usually a fall where they are unable to get up.  If you suddenly become aware that someone you care about is a hoarder, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Resist the impulse to help by cleaning everything out for them while they are in the hospital or away.  Experts believe that the accumulated belongings offer a sense of security and protection, and that an abrupt clean out will likely be traumatic.
  • Contact a therapist who specializes in hoarding issues.
  • Involve the hoarder in the clean out process, empowering them to make some of the decisions about what to get rid of in order to make their home safe, while you’re there to help.

Getting ready to tackle the basement,

Lynn

 

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This week has been all about crisis management!  As Geriatric Care Managers we see our clients at least once a month to keep current and look for changes that we can’t pick up on over the phone.  We often look for whether or not they gained or lost weight, if their dementia has worsened, or if it is time to switch from a cane to a walker, to give a few examples. We know how important these monthly visits are, but sometimes a client or family member may question their value when all is stable.  And that value was made clear to families several times this week.

Things can change quickly for all of us, most especially for older adults because their conditions tend to worsen over time.  When a crisis happens, it is much easier to begin to pick up the pieces when someone who knows the client, is familiar with their history, current medications, recent medical procedures, layout of their home, and their support system is there to provide expertise, help and guidance.

So instead of waiting until poor balance gives way to a fall that requires hospitalization, surgery and then rehab, or when progressing dementia gets to the point where someone can’t be alone, start working with a Geriatric Care Manager proactively, so they’ll be there ready to help when you need them. Let us help smooth the way for you the way we did for several of our families this week. 

Waiting for your call,

Lynn

 

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The winter months can be especially difficult for older adults.  I think most of us would agree with that statement, but usually think of outdoor hazards like snowy walkways and ice on the road.  But what we don’t often think about are indoor hazards that lead to falls.  According to The New York Times, falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injury for older adults, and they most often happen at home.

Several factors can contribute to an individual’s fall risk.  Health factors such as vision, balance, medication and cognitive condition play a role, as do environmental factors such as poorly lit walkways, throw rugs on the floor, electrical cords, slick tile or thick pile carpeting.

Here are a few quick ideas to make your home safer:

  • Pick up throw rugs.  While they look beautiful, they are a tripping hazard.
  • Purchase plug-in lighting for dark walkways.
  • Ask your physician for a prescription for balance training.  It is usually covered by  Medicare.
  • Install hand rails or grab bars in bathrooms, as well as front and rear entrances to your home.

While there are many steps we can take to minimize the risk of a fall, the real obstacle in many cases is the fact that we feel invincible.  “Sure, I can climb on that stepstool to clean the top of the cabinet.  That’s not a problem for me’… until suddenly it is. 

It’s time to put the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”  into action. 

Take care,

Lynn

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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.