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Program helps seniors protect themselves against falls

By Wayne Hinshaw

For the Salisbury Post

“Who has had a fall? Did it happen at your home?”

Those were the opening questions from Diane Spicer, who is the rehabilitation director at The Laurels, as she addressed the monthly “Lunch and Learn” gathering at the Hurley YMCA.

Hands went up in the small group of senior ladies who had recently gathered for the monthly lunch program. Spicer continued,” Have you ever been lightheaded or dizzy, or tripped over your furniture?”

Peggy Taylor was the first to respond. “I had a long-distance phone call and I was excited,” she said. “I caught my foot in the electric cord  and fell just yesterday.”

Another lady contributed that her medicines are making her dizzy and causing her to fall.

Spicer’s advice is to talk with your pharmacist and explain the problem. “If it is your medications making you dizzy, maybe he can change the medication.  Maybe you have high blood pressure that is causing you to be dizzy.”

“I opened the back door and fell out the door,” said Andrea Gregory. “If I fall on my left side, I can’t get up.”

Cathy Parks said, “I was returning home from a wedding and there was a crack in the sidewalk at home and I fell.”

Spicer’s advice to both ladies was to always check your environment before you walk. Step back and look the situation over before walking forward. Look for cracks in the sidewalk, electric cords, throw rugs, pets or toys in your path.

“There are tons of colored tape that you can wrap around cords. There is hot pink or hot green tape that would be easy to see,” instructed Spicer. “Spray paint the crack in your sidewalk so that you will see the crack.”

The most common place for falls  is in the bathroom. Most people who use a walker or a cane leave the walking device outside the bathroom and try to hold to the wall for support. You make a lot of turns moving around in the bathroom and of course the shower is alway slippery.

Another lady reported, “My dog sleeps in the bathroom. I stepped on my dog and fell one time.”

Many falls are caused by stepping on loving dogs and cats.

Grab bars on the bathroom walls can help.

Rising from the toilet seat can be a problem.  Get a raised toilet seat and stabilize yourself before you attempt to stand from the toilet.

Those in the class spent a few minutes practicing getting up and down from their chairs, working on getting  their balance with their feet wide apart before rising.

As we get older, we don’t bounce around like we once did. We are slowing down, according to Spicer.  Some have fallen and laid on the ground or floor for three or four days before someone found them.  The advice was to have close contacts so that people will check on you if you should fall.

Emergency call services like Lifeline or First Alert were suggested as methods to call for help. If your sibling lives next door to you even a baby monitor might let them know you need help.  There are also digital camera devices that  can be installed in your home so that you can be checked on.

Spicer warned that “falls are scary and can make you afraid. Many falls are at night in your home.  Leave a light on in the bathroom or get a night light.  If you do get up at night, get up slowly in case you might be dizzy.”

If your are outside, watch for tree roots or uneven ground.

“Slow down and look aways.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people over 65 years old. Common injuries are head injuries, broken shoulders and arms, spinal injuries and hip fractures.

Other factors contributing to falls are decreased balance and coordination as well as weaker bones and muscles. Poor diets and not drinking enough water can take away your energy. Smoking and alcohol can cause unsteadiness.

The Laurels Marketing Director Brooklyn Constance pointed out that they do all sorts of therapy and rehab all day, every day, and if you fall you may end up at the Laurels for help.

Any senior who is a member of the YMCA can attend the “Lunch and Learn” programs on the fourth Wednesday each month.   Next month the program will be on photography.

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