Fall Prevention: Simple Tips To Prevent Falls

Trip hazards can cause falls around the home.

By Jan Untz, RN, BSN, Oxford Orthopedic Coordinator

Falls can put you at risk of serious injury. Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it is quite important. Physical changes and health concerns—and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions—can make falls more likely.

Fact: Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults.

Help prevent falls with these simple fall-prevention measures, from reviewing your medications to hazard-proofing your home.

Talk to Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor to begin your fall prevention plan.

Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring your medications to the appointment.
    Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, the doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications—such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
  • Have you fallen before? Be prepared to discuss instances when you fell and give detailed information about when, where, and how you fell. You also need to be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk—do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate muscle strength, balance and gait as well.

Keep Moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. If approved by your doctor, you may want to consider activities to reduce the risk of falls and improve your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility such as walking, water workouts or tai chi.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, talk about it plainly. Your doctor may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or may refer you to a physical therapist, who can create a custom exercise program to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

Wear Sensible Shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. People at risk for falls should wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.

Remove Home Hazards

Take a look around your home. The living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards.

To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing—or remove loose rugs entirely.
  • Repair loose floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower.

Light Up Your Living Space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.

You can also:

  • Place night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of the bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

Use Assistive Devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too.

For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat, or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

If you or someone you know could be at risk for falls and would like to learn more about Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System click here.

Don’t Get Scammed by Home Repair Schemes

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Just like migrating birds arrive as the weather warms, so do the scammers. Home repair con artists are out in force this time of year—“flocking” to your neighborhood. These scammers are looking to make a quick buck; and unfortunately, older adults are most vulnerable.

 

According to the National Consumer League, the most common types of home repair scams are:

  • Duct cleaning
  • Driveway sealant
  • Leaky foundations
  • Landscaping
  • Furnace and roof repair

Don’t be a victim—know the signs!

  1. A contractor shows up uninvited, or will call or email out of the blue.
  2. The contractor tells you he/she is in the neighborhood and has “extra material” left over.
  3. The person pressures you to make a decision today because the “special offer” is for today only.
  4. The contractor points out a “problem” or offers a “free” inspection. Some scammers have been known to break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem.
  5. The person demands full payment up front and usually wants cash.
  6. The individual has no identification or permits from the county or city.
  7. You are offered a discount so your home may be used as a “model”.
  8. The contractor wants to show you the “damage”, while an associate steals valuables from your home.

 

Tips to avoid being scammed by home repair con artists:

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. You have the right to say NO!
  2. Get several estimates on any home repair job.
  3. Check references including checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Never pay in full up front, especially if paying by cash.
  5. It is very important that the contractor is insured and bonded—ask to see proof.
  6. Make sure everything is put in writing. Carefully read all the contracts and be sure you fully understand the scope of the work to be done, cost and time necessary to complete the job. Have in writing how payment will be handled. Make sure you understand the contract cancellation and refund terms.
  7. Ask for advice from a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are feeling pressured or have questions and concerns.

If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.

 

Excerpts from National Council on Aging and National Consumer League

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

 

MAY IS NATIONAL STROKE AWARENESS MONTH

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke. A stroke occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it is the fourth leading cause of death. A stroke can strike people of all ages, in fact the CDC reports that nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than 65.
Strokes are largely PREVENTABLE.
• According to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. It is important to keep your blood pressure under control.
• Cigarette smoking contributes to one in every five strokes in the country. Exposure to second hand smoke can also contribute to a higher stroke risk.
• Exercise regularly. To help lower or control blood pressure, get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
• Prevent or control diabetes.
• Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet/physical activity or medication if needed.
• Eat a healthy diet. Watch your sodium intake.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
• Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
Strokes are TREATABLE, but every second counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk of death or disability.

As an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke, the American Stroke Association wants everyone to learn F.A.S.T. When you spot the signs you will know to call 9-1-1 immediately.

F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?
S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T= Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you will know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T., other warning signs include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg.
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden severe headaches with no known cause

Remember getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial to prevent disability and death.
For more information go to www.strokeassociation.org

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Your Heart Needs TLC Year-Round

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

February is a time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, love and American Heart Month. However, focusing on your heart and providing it some TLC is something to do year-round.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure—is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. CVD is a leading cause of disability and heart disease is a major threat to senior health. The American Heart Association reports that approximately 83.6 million adults have at least one type of CVD. For those 60-79 years old, 70.2% of men and 70.9% of women have CVD.

While one in four deaths is due to heart disease, many CVD deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits and managing risk factors like:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Steps toward a healthy heart are a journey that requires lifestyle changes, determination and patience. Things that can help include:

  • Staying encouraged – every healthy choice makes a difference.
  • Asking for help—get friends and family involved; heart health is for everyone.
  • Rewarding yourself—decrease stress by discovering fun and new things to do.

Little changes add up; as Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Steps to Heart Disease Prevention

  • Get a regular check up from a health care professional. Know your numbers!
    High blood pressure often has no symptoms; so check it on a regular basis.
  • Know your family history—if heart disease runs in your family, be proactive about heart health.
  • Take your medicine.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; nuts like walnuts and almonds; and, limit saturated fats and foods containing cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly— Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • QUIT smoking.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Minimize stress in your life.

Find more Heart Health information at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/conditions/heart-health OR http://www.heart.org

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

 

 

WHEN WINTER WEATHER STRIKES – ARE YOU PREPARED?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, exposure to the cold—whether indoors or outside—can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.

Be safe and be prepared for hazards associated with extremely cold weather.

Winter Weather Prep Tips:

Have a winter survival kit in your home that consists of:

  • Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods and dried fruits. If you have young children, don’t forget baby food and formula.
  • Water stored in clean containers or bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 5 gallons per person on hand in case pipes freeze or rupture.
  • Medicines that any family member may need.

Remember, if your home is isolated, stock up on additional food, water and medicine.

Have an emergency supply list. Some handy and essential items to include:

  • an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure
  • blankets
  • matches
  • fire extinguisher
  • flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries
  • battery-powered radio and clock/watch
  • non-electric can opener
  • snow shovel
  • rock salt
  • special need items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications etc.)

Your ability to feel a change of temperature decreases with age, and older people are susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are 65 years of age or older, check the temperature of your home often during winter months. If a warm, indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If a warm indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.

If you are using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, always install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Heat your home safely!

Conserve heat. Keep as much heat as possible in your home. Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels/rags in cracks under doors, close drapes, cover windows with any extra blankets at night.
Dress warmly and stay dry. Do not ignore shivering—it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a sign to return indoors.
Avoid exertion. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to work outside, dress warmly and work slowly.
Eat and drink wisely. Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly. Weather forecasters often give several days’ notice when impending cold weather is approaching. Check your emergency supplies when periods of extreme cold are predicted.

GET PREPARED! DON’T BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD!

Excerpts from the CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

TRICK OR TREAT? How to Know When You Are Being Scammed.

jackolanternsBy Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

According to the National Council on Aging, financial scams targeting seniors are so prevalent these scams are now considered the “crime of the 21st century.”

Why target seniors? Many believe seniors have a lot of money sitting in their bank accounts; and unfortunately, financial scams often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute. This is why financial scams are often considered a “low-risk crime.”

Scammers are out to make a quick buck and target wealthy and low-income seniors. It’s very sad, but family members perpetrate many financial scams.

To help protect you or a loved one from getting TRICKED, the National Council on Aging provides a list of the Top 10 Scams that Target Seniors.

Medicare/Health Insurance Fraud

In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them personal information, or they will provide bogus services to elderly people at “makeshift” mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet where seniors go to find better prices for specialized medications. This scam is growing in popularity and has potential to cause physical harm. Besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase and consume dangerous substances.

Funeral & Cemetery Scams

The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors. In one approach, scammers read obituaries, call or attend the funeral service and take advantage of a grieving widow or widower by claiming the deceased has an outstanding debt with them. Scammers will try to extort money to settle fake debts.

Disreputable funeral homes will add unnecessary charges to a bill to capitalize on family members unfamiliar with the cost of funerals. One common scam is a funeral director will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of a funeral service, is necessary when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.

Fraudulent Anti-Aging Products

Older Americans are seeking out new treatments and medications to maintain a youthful appearance, and scammers are ready to pounce. There is big money in the anti-aging business.

Telemarketing

The most common scheme is when scammers use fake telemarketing calls to prey on older people, who as a group makes twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average. With no face-to-face interaction, and no paper trail, these scams are hard to trace.

The pigeon drop: a con artist tells an individual a large sum of money has been found and he/she will split it if the person will make a “good faith” payment by withdrawing funds. Often a second con artist is involved posing as a lawyer, banker or some other trustworthy stranger.
The fake accident policy: the con artist gets the victim to wire or send money on the pretext that the person’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs money.
Charity scams: money is solicited for fake charities. This scam often occurs after natural disasters.

Internet Fraud

While using the Internet is a great skill at any age, the slower speed of adoption among some older people makes them easy targets for automated Internet scams. In this scam, seniors receive email messages, which appear to be from a legitimate company or institution, asking them to “update” or “verify” their personal information.

Investment Schemes

A number of investment schemes are targeted at seniors looking to safeguard their cash for their later years. Investment schemes like Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme have long been a successful way to take advantage of older people.

Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Scams

Scammers like to take advantage of the fact that many seniors own their homes. The reverse mortgage scam has increased in recent years. There are legitimate secured reverse mortgage companies; however, unsecured reverse mortgages can lead property owners to lose their homes. It is important to do your homework!

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

We hear about these all of the time. A scammer informs someone that he/she has won a lottery or sweepstakes and needs to make some sort of payment to unlock the supposed prize. Scammers will often send a “prize” check that the senior takes to the bank for deposit. The scammer knows the deposit will show up immediately, but it will take a few days before the check is discovered as a fake. While the check is clearing, the scammer will collect money for supposed taxes and fees. The scammer pockets this money while the victim’s “prize money” is removed from his/her account as soon as the check bounces.

The Grandparent Scam

The scammer will place a call to an older adult and when the “mark” picks up the scammer will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild, the scammer has established a fake identity. The “fake” grandchild will usually ask for money to solve unexpected financial problems.


If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.