June 19, 2018
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Clinics lend a hand to prevent senior falls

By Carol Higgins Taylor, Special to the BDN

As spring approaches and the weather warms, you’re probably more likely get outside and do things. That is, unless you are afraid of falling, which can severely restrict your desire to move around out of your comfort zone. Fear is a powerful thing, and it can change a person’s behavior.

Many seniors live with the fear of falling, which can be almost as dangerous as falling itself, but in a different way. Those who develop this fear often limit their activities, resulting in physical de-conditioning and making the risk of falling even greater. It is a vicious cycle.

The less active you are in the hopes of preventing a fall, the more likely you are to take a tumble because your muscles have lost some strength. Your balance can take a hit as well.

Then there is the mental side of things. Many older adults experience increased isolation and depression when they curtail their interactions with family and friends. Imagine not going to church or lunch with a friend, or to grandchildren’s birthday parties.

Sometimes the risks are very real, such as icy conditions or walking on uneven ground. But sometimes the risk develops from fear — and that is what we are trying to diminish.

Have you ever wondered what your personal fall risk is?

Now you can find out. Eastern Area Agency on Aging and Husson University have teamed to provide free falls risk clinics at Husson University, Dyke Center for Family Business, One College Circle, Bangor.

Special thanks go out to the United Way of Eastern Maine for funding these clinics. The United Way has taken an interest in preventing falls in seniors and is committed to making seniors feel safer.

The clinics are scheduled for 1-3 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 26 and March 19, and are led by the skilled physical therapy students at Husson.

Appointments are required and may be made by calling Karyn at EAAA, 941-2865. She will send you a couple of forms to fill out and carry to the clinic with you regarding your medications — including over-the-counter medications and supplements — some of which may increase the risk of falling, and a home assessment check list so you can see where the problem areas may be in your house or apartment.

Plan to spend about 30 minutes at the clinic, which will give the staff a chance to perform a full evaluation and generate a report that you can take with you. A copy should be given to your health care provider.

“Think about this statistic,” said Val Sauda, director of community services at EAAA. “Every year, one out of three adults aged 60 and older falls. In many cases these falls could have been prevented if the senior had taken a few simple steps to ensure home safety and by making small adjustments in certain health behaviors.”

The Centers for Disease Control reported recently that, in 2005, 1.8 million seniors were hospitalized for a fall-related injury — and 16,000 older adults died as a result of a fall.

These are serious numbers, but fear of falling is not a natural consequence of aging — and you don’t have to live with it. Knowing your status and maybe making a few necessary changes can go a long way to keeping you upright. Join us at one of these free clinics so we can help you put your best foot forward — safely.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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