Personal safety is a concern from the moment a person is born. For infants there are car seats, baby monitors, instructions on positions for sleep, and specific regulations for crib construction. The toddler age has guidelines for toy sizes, plugs for electrical outlets, protection against falls as they learn to walk and security for cabinet doors. As children grow we add bicycle helmets, knee pads, booster seats for cars, and stranger danger lessons. When they become teenagers and young adults, lessons begin for safe driving, personal safety, and seat belts, seat belts, seat belts. Adults practice all the safety measures and the precautions necessary to protect their children around household projects, chemicals, fireplaces, and tools.

What about safety measures for seniors? In my time spent with this age group I have come to realize they are the new “I am invincible” generation – much more so than teenagers. Discussions of safety and prevention usually end in either “I do not need to worry about that yet” or “I am always careful”. Too often assistance is refused; a fall occurrs and at minimum, independence stopped. Basic safety awareness and assistance can prevent falls and life threatening injuries.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of three adults aged 65 and older falls each year and these falls are the main cause of death due to injury. In 2009 2.2 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to a fall and one-fourth of these were admitted to the hospital. Injuries resulting from falls affect mobility, independence, and can contribute to early death. Seniors aged 75 and older that fall are 4-5 times more likely to be admitted for a year or longer to a long-term care facility than seniors aged 65-74 who experience a fall.

Many factors contribute to the risk of falls as we age. Changes in eyesight, hearing, and muscle strength; chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease; and problems with thyroid, blood vessels or nerves can all affect balance and reflexes. Medications can cause dizziness or weakness.

In January 2011, the American Geriatric Society and the British Geriatric Society jointly issued their latest guidelines on fall prevention for seniors living at home (http://www.americangeriatrics.org/press/news_press_releases/id:1545). Many years of research have revealed several new recommendations. Vitamin D is now recommended for maintaining seniors’ balance and specific exercises such as tai chi, strength and cardiovascular training are identified to reduce fall risk.

Falls can be prevented. Stay active, have your physician or pharmacist review medications for side effects or interactions, have your eyes and hearing checked regularly, get plenty of sleep, and get up slowly after eating or lying down. If a cane or walker has been recommended to help with balance or strength, it should be used and rubber soled low healed shoes are suggested.

Increase the safety of your home. Sturdy handrails should be on all stairways and used for guidance. Make sure lighting is adequate, nightlights are kept on, spills are immediately cleaned up, carpets are flat and affixed to the floor, and wires and cords are out of the walking paths. If a step stool is needed make sure it is stable, not too high, and has a handrail.

Griswold Special Care is available to perform a free home safety check minimizing the risk of falling. The older we get an ounce of prevention is worth many more pounds of cure.

Griswold Special Care, Gives You an Advantage

The American Medical Association reports that 60% of all prescribed medication is not taken as directed. Twenty-five percent of hospital admissions for those 65 years of age and older are a direct result of these individuals not taking their medicine as prescribed. Statistics abound of emergency room visits and readmission rates for those seniors 65 and older.

Researchers from the University of Washington, the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, and the University of North Carolina studied 2,929 volunteer senior citizens from 1994 to 2007. The volunteers were screened for dementia upon enrollment in the study and screened again every two years for the duration of the study. Results indicated that those hospitalized for noncritical illnesses were 40% more likely to develop dementia than those that were never hospitalized. The researchers hypothesized that low oxygen levels, low blood pressure, unstable blood glucose levels, inflammatory processes, sedatives and pain medicines may play a role and they continue to study the phenomena.

As reported by the Mayo clinic, the health of up to 50% of seniors living at home may be affected by undernutrition or malnutrition. In addition to inadequate amounts of food and nutrients, causes of malnutrition in the elderly include a mix of physical, emotional and social issues. A decrease in the sensitivity of taste and smell affect appetite and shopping and cooking become more difficult and less interesting. As poor eating habits continue, a loss of muscle mass and strength and a weakened immune system develop.

Causes, effects, complications and costs of hospital admissions and readmissions may be preventable with services provided by the quality, qualified, affordable caregivers referred by Griswold Special Care. Caregivers monitor medication compliance, assist with reordering, and offer medication reminders. They accompany clients to physician appointments taking notes of any tests or changes in treatments and medication for the client or to report to responsible family members. Caregivers assist with the activities of daily living, prepare nutritious meals, assist with grocery shopping, encourage socialization and exercise fostering wellness, strength, muscle mass and balance.

Caregivers keep our seniors at home which gives them an advantage.

A Day in the Life of Caregiving

Last Monday was an interesting day-a study in life. One client and family friend ended a life well lived with a dignified passing, surrounded by family and friends. A client was admitted with a fractured hip and her family friend was insisting she is suddenly no longer competent to live alone. A new client so use to being alone at home was hesitant about new opportunities to explore new things. Then my 87 year old mom sent me a text!!!. Something new learned up in the mountains of Colorado, watching the snow, while visiting my sister. All three women about the same chorological age, but growing old very differently

Physically life stops when the heart quits beating or it is determined that brain function stops. But life can functionally stop when we stop learning, stop making our own choices and stop being a participant in our own care. The choices a person makes affects the course of their lives. It is documented that eating well, exercising appropriately and challenging our mind with new things can slow memory loss, maintain muscle mass and strength, and strengthen the body’s immune system. It is also as well documented that poor nutrition, lack of activity and social engagement puts a person at risk for chronic illness, memory loss, compromised skin integrity, increased risk of infection; and balance problems, loss of muscle mass and strength leading to increased risk of falls.

Fast forward one week. The client with the fractured hip is in rehab, resisting exercise, not eating well, thus is weaker than she should be at this stage of recovery and has developed bed sores. My home alone client got in the car and hit the roads with her new found caregiver/friend. My mom has not sent anymore text messages but took apart and fixed her vacuum cleaner. I wear a different caregiver hat to support them all

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