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Health Q&A

Posted January 02, 2013 in Advice Column, Clear Lake

Q: How can I prevent falls in the home of an elderly person?

A: Individuals with impaired cognition, vision, balance, or gait, decreased muscle strength, arthritis or who take four or more medications are at a higher risk of falling. Geriatric research has shown that the risk of falling increases with the number of risk factors present, ranging from 8 percent for seniors without any risk factors to 78 percent for those with four or more risk factors. It is important to realize that nearly 50 percent of all falls occur at home.

Prevent falls from happening at home so that you or your elderly family member can live independently at home longer. Throughout the home, remove throw rugs, have at least one phone located on each level and install an emergency response system if needed. Remove caster wheels from furniture and arrange furniture for easy movement around the room. In the bathroom, install a raised toilet seat and apply nonskid mats to wet surfaces. Avoid using floor polish or wax in the kitchen to reduce slick surfaces, and place commonly-used items within easy reach. Applying brightly-colored tape to the face of stair steps will make them more visible.

To learn more about the topic of preventing falls in the home, attend Oakwood Care Center’s free “In an Oakwood Hour” lunch and learn on Jan. 9, from noon to 1 p.m. at Oakwood Care Center. Call Katie Mason at (641) 357-5244 to reserve your spot at this free lunch.

Information provided by Katie Mason, marketing coordinator at Oakwood Care Center, 400 Highway 18 W., Clear Lake, 641 357-5244.

Q: How can seniors stay safe during the winter?

A: Many reduce their physical activity during the winter months because of frigid temperatures and snow or icy conditions outdoors. But that’s no reason to stop exercising. Seniors can do flexibility, balancing and strength exercises in their kitchen or bedroom. These include circling the arms slowly to stretch the upper body, toe raises standing at a kitchen counter and balancing on one leg at a time. Seniors can join mall walking clubs or, if they live in an apartment building, walk the hallways and staircases. By doing these for just 30 minutes a day, they can help maintain their strength and balance.

Seniors who need to shovel driveways and walkways should take special precautions. The easiest option is to hire someone to do this work. If this is not an option, seniors should go slowly, lift small amounts of snow and take frequent breaks. Wear shoes or boots that have non-skid soles to help prevent falling on ice.

Hypothermia and frostbite are real concerns for seniors, whose bodies aren’t as resilient to the elements as they used to be. Proper clothing for winter conditions are essential to keeping seniors safe and warm. Lightweight, layered clothing allow for easy movement. Mittens, hat and scarves are also essential during the cold months.

Have a plan to call and check in with family members or neighbors weekly to ensure that you are safe and well.

Information provided by Holly Windelow, co-owner, Help At Home Senior Care LLC, 141 N. Clark St., Clear Lake, 641-525-0332,,

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