Friday Feature: Emily’s Story

Elaine Whitford Give_Receive_Care

The fear of falling keeps many older adults from experiencing life to its fullest. Many seniors need to use a cane or walker to steady their steps. Unfortunately, a walker can feel like a barrier between the frail, elderly and their loved ones.

Emily hopes that knee surgery will make it possible to walk across the room without a walker. “I want to open the front door and hug my grandchildren without having to worry about falling,” said Emily, 72, and lives alone.

The last few months leading up to Emily’s surgery haven’t been easy. “I have a hard time bending and walking, said Emily. “I know I can’t give in to the pain; I always try to find a way to get through the day.”

Part of the surgery prep work for Emily included losing 140 pounds. Getting through the dieting challenges meant keeping her son and grandchildren as motivation. Persevering to get a job done is not new to Emily. When her husband died over 20-years ago, Emily worked two part-time jobs and put in as many hours as she could, including weekends and evenings, just to make ends meet. “It was a rough time, but I kept our heads above water,” said Emily.

The hard work was worthwhile when Emily saw her son graduate from college. As her health started to decline, Emily moved to Wake County a few years ago to be closer to her son and grandchildren.

At the time, Emily was able to drive, but now she can’t. Emily reached out to The Center for Volunteer Caregiving for help with rides to the doctor. “The Center has been good to me,” said Emily. “The people are the most wonderful people I have ever met and become friends for life.

Hear more from Emily in the video below. We hope to bring you the good news about Emily and the results from her surgery.

Part of the process for someone like Emily to use one of The Center’s programs includes an assessment. Trained staff and volunteers look for hazards in the home. Soon Meredith College students will partner with The Center’s staff and work with seniors to reduce the risk of falls through safety modifications and in-home exercise programs. Learn more about the grant and next steps.

Fall Prevention Tips
“Falling is the leading cause of injury facing older Americans,” said Ellen Schneider, a Research Scientist with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “Annually, 27,000 people die from a fall every 19 minutes and every 11 seconds, someone is treated for a fall injury.”

The impact is felt in the emergency department with 2.4 million visits and direct medical costs of more than $30 billion.
The good news is that most falls are preventable. Knowing the risk factors leading to falls and following preventative steps are key to remaining healthy, safe, and independent as you age.

Common Risk Factors*
• Balance and Gait – as we age, declining coordination, balance and flexibility increase fall risk.
• Vision and Hearing Loss – both vision and hearing impairments increase risk for older adults.
• Medications – certain medications, or combinations of medications, may cause dizziness or dehydration, leading to increased risk of falling.
• Environment – often seniors haven’t installed necessary modifications to improve home safety.
• Chronic Health Conditions – complications from conditions such as arthritis, stroke, UTI, or diabetes can increase fall risk.

5 Steps to Prevent Falls*
• Exercise – find an exercise program such as Tai Chi that improves balance, fitness, and strength.
• Vision and hearing checks – schedule annual screenings and update eyeglasses prescriptions.
• Review medications – have your doctor or pharmacist regularly review prescriptions for possible side effects that may increase fall risk.
• Keep your home safe – perform regular home safety assessments; remove tripping hazards, increase lighting, and make assistive modifications.
• Talk to your health care provider – communicate any concerns and ask for a fall risk assessment.

*FIve Steps from AARP

Contact Robin for more information on The Center’s In-Home Connections Program and falls prevention.