How Can I Do a Fall Safety Check of My Dad’s House?

How Can I Do a Fall Safety Check of My Dad’s House?

Dear Donna:

My dad has had a few falls and a couple of close calls recently. While he hasn’t experienced any injuries, I know we have to figure out a better plan for keeping him safe. My biggest fear is he will fall and be unable to call for help. I live several hours away and can’t be there as often as I would like.

My husband and I will be spending a few weeks with my dad during the holidays. We are planning to try to come up with ways to improve his nutrition. I know that is part of the reason he’s falling.

I’m hoping you can offer some suggestions on a second concern. I want to conduct a safety assessment of my dad’s house. He was stubbornly resistant to our suggestion to hire a physical therapist to do that for us. He doesn’t want a stranger in his home. So, we’ll have to do this on our own.

I’ve already listed obvious tasks like packing up throw rugs and installing grab bars in his bathroom. What other fall hazards should we look for during our visit?

Sincerely,

Tina in Holly, MI

Fall Prevention and Home Safety Assessments

Dear Tina:
It sounds like you have reason to be concerned. Falls are the leading cause of serious injury in older adults. Once a senior experiences a fall, they are more likely to fall again. It’s good that you are taking steps to try to prevent your dad from falling again.

Because most falls happen in the bathroom, that’s a good place to start your assessment. Specifically, you’ll want to look for the following hazards and opportunities:

  • Is there a motion light or nightlight that illuminates the path your dad takes to and from the bathroom?
  • Are most-used personal care items stored in places he can easily reach? Step stools can be especially dangerous for people with balance problems.
  • Towel bars can be hazardous. Your dad might be tempted to use them to pull himself up or hold onto while getting in and out of the shower. Replace them with sturdy grab bars.
  • If your dad has trouble sitting down and standing back up, a raised toilet seat with attached grab bars is a good solution.
  • Does the floor present a fall risk? Slippery tiles and throw rugs aren’t a good combination.
  • Does one of the bathrooms have a step-free shower? Climbing back and forth over the edge of a tub is hazardous for a senior struggling with balance. You may also want to add a shower chair for your dad to rest on while showering.

While the bathroom is the place seniors fall most often, also make sure:

  • Stairways have even treads, a sturdy handrail, and good lighting
  • Furniture is arranged in a manner that allows for easy navigating
  • Pathways around favorite spots are free from clutter
  • Carpeting is free of holes, rips, or bunches
  • Extension cords are placed against walls rather than across floors
  • Exterior stairs have a strong handrail and good lighting
  • The sidewalk leading to the garage is in good shape
  • The garage door opener is working
  • Main pathways throughout the home are easy to maneuver and have good lighting

One final suggestion is to purchase a medical alert device. In the event your dad does have a fall, he can quickly call for help.

If you and your dad decide that he would benefit from the supportive environment offered by an assisted living community, I encourage you to consider Heritage. Call a community nearby to learn more and schedule a private tour at your convenience.

Kind regards,

Donna

Vision Changes Seniors Shouldn’t Ignore

Vision Changes Seniors Shouldn’t Ignore

Vision changes shouldn’t be ignored at any age, but especially if you are an older adult. That’s because the risk for eye disease increases as we age. Identifying small changes before they become big ones is essential for early intervention and treatment. Here’s what seniors should know about eye health and aging.

Eye Conditions Common among Seniors

Your risk of developing a vision problem increases with age. A few common types of eye disease seniors experience include:

  • Floaters: Seeing floaters in your line of vision can occur as you age. They don’t usually pose a serious threat to eye health, but can be a sign that a retina is detaching. If you notice particles floating in your vision, call the doctor or go to the emergency room.
  • Cataracts: By the age of 80, your risk for developing cataracts climbs to 50%. Cloudy or double vision, seeing a yellow tint to colors, and sensitivity to light are all warning signs. Fortunately, cataracts can be removed through a routine outpatient procedure. Untreated, however, this common eye condition can lead to blindness.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD progresses slowly and gets worse over time. By contrast, the wet form of AMD is very aggressive. It can actually cause vision loss in a matter of weeks. The main symptom is the loss of central vision. While the progression of the disease can be slowed by laser treatments, there isn’t a cure. Early intervention is essential.
  • Glaucoma: This is another eye disease for which risk increases as you age. Family history also plays a role. The catch is there are no early symptoms. The main method of detection is a yearly visit to the eye doctor. Unfortunately, if it isn’t diagnosed and treated early, glaucoma can result in blindness.

Vision Symptoms That Require Follow-Up

If you notice any of the following vision changes, you should discuss them with an eye doctor:

  • Yellow cast to field of vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Cloudy vision
  • Eye twitch
  • Inability to produce tears
  • Burning, itching, or gritty feeling
  • Straining to read
  • Teary eyes
  • Eyelid pain
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Trouble distinguishing green from blue

Vision Changes That Are Red Flags

While the vision changes outlined above should be addressed with your physician, other symptoms can be signs of a serious or life-threatening medical issue. Call 911 or your primary care physician if you experience any of the following:

  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sudden pain in or behind the eye
  • Uncontrolled eye movement
  • Abrupt loss of vision in one or both eyes

Don’t wait to see if any of these red flags improve on their own. While it may be something minor, these symptoms are also linked to strokes and other neurological problems.

Assisted Living Provides a Safe Environment for Seniors with Vision Loss

If you or a senior family member have experienced vision loss, a move to an assisted living community might be a good solution. From step-free showers to good lighting, the environment is designed to support success. Call a Heritage Senior Community to learn more today!

Does Social Media Add to Caregiver Stress?

Does Social Media Add to Caregiver Stress?

Many people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by connecting with others on social media and spending more time online. While it’s a safe way to stay in touch with loved ones when you are trying to avoid large gatherings, there can be downsides. Social media platforms have become a leading source of misinformation and family disagreements. They can also lead to unrealistic expectations.

For a caregiver who might already be struggling with isolation and stress, it can be difficult to find a healthy balance for social media use. Let’s look at the pros and cons of social media and how to tell if you might be overdoing it.

The Benefits of Staying Active on Social Media

Some benefits of participating in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels include:

  • Staying informed: Social media makes it easy to keep up with your favorite organizations and groups. This is especially helpful if you are trying to limit the amount of time you spend in public or if you are a caregiver for a loved one who isn’t safe staying alone.
  • Sharing with loved ones: You’ll also find platforms like Facebook to be a good avenue for connecting with and sharing news, photos, and videos with loved ones.
  • Finding virtual events: The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of virtual activities people can participate in. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are good places to find programs you can join.

These are just a few of the many advantages of social media. But it’s important to know about the disadvantages, too.

The Downside of Social Media

Unfortunately, the downside of social media platforms has become increasingly obvious and includes:

  • Spreading misinformation on important topics, such as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how to protect yourself from the virus
  • Arguing about politics and what is—or isn’t—credible news
  • Creating unrealistic goals, from how you look to the type of house you live in
  • Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, the dangers of which are linked to as many health risks as smoking

How can you tell if your social media time is helping you feel less isolated or adding to your caregiver stress?

Here are a few tips to evaluate your social media use and see if it’s time to make adjustments.

Evaluating Social Media–Related Stress

If you are trying to assess whether your social media habits are helping you feel connected or having a negative impact on your well-being, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Time involved: How much time do you spend on social media each day? Staring at your computer or device screen for too many hours can harm your eyes. Spending too much time sitting can also negatively impact your health. You might need to track your time so you can objectively evaluate the situation.
  • Relationship changes: Are you fighting with friends and family you would never disagree with in person? Have your offline friendships been damaged by disagreements that started on a platform like Facebook? People often feel much freer to express their opinions online than they do in person. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, it may be best to decrease your social media time.
  • Increased anxiety: There’s no disputing that social media can be a source of anxiety and stress for many. Facebook is often the worst. Pay attention to how you feel before you log on and after you log off of social media. Is there a change? That can be key to determining if you need to take a social media break.

If you aren’t ready to give up your social media interactions but need to reduce the stress it causes, pay attention to what is making you feel uncomfortable. Are certain family members cyberbullies? Are some organizations you follow causing you stress? Choosing not to follow them on social media may help you enjoy yourself online.

Reduce Caregiver Stress by Joining an Online Support Group

Another online resource for caregivers to consider joining is an online support group. It’s a good way to connect when the person you are caring for needs constant supervision or if you are limiting the time you spend in group gatherings. How to Connect with an Online Caregiver Support Group has tips to help you get started.

Winter Fitness Activities for Seniors

Winter Fitness Activities for Seniors

Winter can be a challenging time for seniors to engage in fitness activities. While most areas have parks where you can walk or ride a bike, they can be frigid and icy when the mercury drops. Driving to a fitness club when road conditions are poor can also be more of a hazard than it’s worth.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create a list of winter fitness activities before the snow begins to fly. Here are a few ideas you might want to explore.

Senior Fitness Ideas for Winter

  • Chair yoga: Yoga helps build core strength and endurance. Even performing it from a seated position yields many health benefits. This YouTube video from Yoga With Adriene provides a good introduction for older adults.
  • Tai Chi: This ancient form of Chinese martial arts builds strength, endurance, and flexibility. It produces good results in a safe, low-impact manner. Faithfully performing Tai Chi a few times a week will lead to better balance and lower risk for falls. These Tai Chi videos on the Arthritis Foundation website will help you learn more.
  • Strength training: As we grow older, muscle strength begins to diminish. That’s why it’s important to engage in strength training exercises a few times a week. Resistance bands and small weights are easy for older adults to use. One free resource seniors might find helpful is called Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults. It was developed by Tufts University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Download it to learn how to set goals and track your progress.
  • Go4Life: Another comprehensive resource for seniors to explore was created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The Go4Life program makes it easier for older adults to stay active and fit in the privacy of their own homes. The program includes free tools and resources, such as exercise guides and tracking tools.
  • Cycling: Riding a bicycle is a relatively safe form of exercise for older adults when the weather is warm. During winter, you can continue cycling on a recumbent bike at home. Recumbent bikes promote the same health benefits as cycling, but in a safe, reclined position.

As is true before starting any new form of exercise, talk with your primary care physician first.

Wellness Activities at Heritage Senior Communities

Because we understand the important role fitness plays in successful aging, Heritage Senior Communities offer a variety of activities for residents to engage in every day. From stretching and gardening to walking groups and senior aerobics, we invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Do You Really Need a Flu Shot Every Year?

Do You Really Need a Flu Shot Every Year?

While the spotlight continues to focus on COVID-19 and new variants, it’s important not to forget that flu season is upon us. A question that comes up every flu season is whether you need an influenza vaccine (flu shot) every year. Some people believe it isn’t really necessary because the virus is so similar from year to year. The experts say, however, that’s a bad assumption.

In reality, strains of the flu virus differ each year. Some years the difference is especially significant. Because of that, the vaccine is designed to protect against what are believed to be the most common strains for the upcoming flu season.

Leading Flu Risks for Seniors

While younger adults might be better able to fight the flu, seniors may not. For older adults, a serious case of influenza can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. While the flu is no fun for anyone, the risks are often greater for seniors.

  • Flu-related complications: People aged 65 and older are at a higher risk than younger people for serious health complications related to the flu. Pneumonia, for example, is one of the most dangerous. Older adults account for 85% of flu-related deaths and almost 70% of influenza-related hospital admissions every year.
  • Exacerbating pre-existing conditions: Seniors are more likely to have a weakened immune system because of pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The flu further exacerbates these illnesses.

One of the best ways a senior can guard against influenza is by having an annual vaccine. So, yes, getting a flu shot every year is a good idea. For some, false information associated with vaccines might deter them from getting it. Here are two of the most common misperceptions about the flu shot.

Busting Two Common Myths about the Annual Flu Vaccine

  • The flu vaccine gives you the flu to build up immunity.

An older adult who really needs the vaccine might resist getting it because they believe it will make them sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu shots build immunity by administering either an inactivated virus or a single strain of the flu. This produces an immune response in the body that protects you from the flu without getting sick.

  • Flu shots hurt and can have painful side effects.

For most people, the shot itself causes very little discomfort. Relaxing your arm as you receive the vaccine also helps minimize pain. Make sure to move your arm around afterward to prevent stiffness. Side effects are usually fairly minimal, too. Common ones include pain at the injection site, a minor headache, and muscle aches.

What Is the Best Month to Receive a Flu Vaccine?

Your primary care physician is probably the best person to answer this question. They know your personal medical history and risk factors. But health experts generally agree that getting your flu shot in mid-October is best. That gives the body time to build up immunity before the virus begins to make its rounds.

The influenza vaccine isn’t the only way you can prevent being bitten by the flu bug. This article, “Prepare to Shoo the Flu,” offers more useful tips to stay safe and healthy.

Want to find a senior living community near you? Explore our Heritage Senior Living Communities or contact us today.

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Dear Donna:

My mom had a bad fall at home a few days ago. While no serious harm was done, she is pretty bruised and sore. Her fall caught us off guard as it’s never happened before. I scheduled a physical with her primary care physician but want to be proactive in identifying potential problems in the meantime.

What are some warning signs that an older adult is at risk for a fall? What changes can we help her make at home?

My family and I would be grateful for any direction you can provide!

Sincerely,

Kaye in Ann Arbor, MI

Identify Fall Risks for a Senior Loved One

Hi, Kaye:

I’m glad to hear your mother didn’t suffer any serious injuries when she fell, but I’m sure it must have been frightening for both of you! It’s good that you are taking this seriously. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among seniors, so anything you can do to lower your mother’s risk is essential.

Here are a few recommendations to help you try to identify your mother’s potential risks:

  • Conduct a home safety assessment: If your mother lives in an older home, it might not have been designed with senior safety in mind. Stairs, poor lighting, and difficult-to-access showers are a few potential hazards. One of the first steps you can take is to conduct a room-by-room evaluation of her house to identify problem spots. This information will help you.
  • Examine her nutrition: This one often catches people off guard. Poor nutrition can cause weakness and make seniors unsteady on their feet. Spend some time talking about her diet. Make sure she’s eating well and not skipping meals.
  • Review her medications: Medications can have side effects and interactions that increase the risk for a fall. Talk with your mom’s pharmacist by phone or in person to identify any potential problems. Don’t forget to tell them about any over-the-counter medications or homeopathic remedies she is taking.
  • Schedule a vision exam: Another reason seniors experience falls is poor vision. Sometimes older adults might not even realize their vision is worsening. A yearly eye exam helps identify issues early and gives the ophthalmologist an opportunity to intervene before small problems become big ones. If your mother hasn’t had one in more than a year, schedule a check-up.
  • Encourage regular exercise: Core strength is linked to good balance. That’s another vital component of a good fall prevention program. Walking, light weight lifting, and resistance band workouts can help improve strength and balance. As is true of any new form of exercise, talk with your mom’s physician before starting.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Kaye! Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities Encourage Fitness

With 15 locations in Michigan and northern Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities is a leading provider of senior living in the Midwest. Part of our success comes from understanding the role wellness plays in residents’ lives. Call a Heritage community for more information today!