Hot to prevent falls among seniors
A new program is teaching local residents to live a better life by avoiding potentially debilitating falls.
“A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” is supported by the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative in Tulsa. Jenna Chavez, community outreach coordinator, will come to Tahlequah to do the program. He met with participants at the Tahlequah Public Library on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. through May in the Carnegie Room.
The program consists of eight different lessons from the course, which include: introduction to the program, exploration of thoughts and worries about falls, exercise and prevention of falls, assertiveness and prevention of falls, management of worries about falls, recognition of “fall” habits, recognize risks of falls at home and in the community, and do not practice fall / fall prevention habits.
“This program is for people who are afraid of falling for doing anything. It could be when it rains, they could be afraid to go out and come to this class,” Chavez said. “Matter of Balance is here to reduce risk or reduce the fear of falling.”
The class is also based on conversation. Different participants experience different challenges, so Chávez adapts the classes to the needs of the participants. The first part of the class is intended to educate the participants, and the second part consists of doing different exercises that improve the person’s balance.
“The program is designed to help participants prevent falls by building their balance,” said Cherokee Lowe, manager of the Tahlequah Public Library. “This is a new class offered by the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative. We think it’s a great class to offer our customers.”
OHAI is designed to provide resources that improve the health and quality of Oklahoma residents as they age, and is based in Oklahoma City, but has centers throughout the state. Chávez covers the northeastern region of Oklahoma.
Older people may experience balance problems for a variety of reasons. Spring presents its own challenges due to air pollen. Allergies cause pressure and pain in the breasts, which can cause headaches and dizziness.
A person’s sense of balance is regulated by the vestibular system, which is the apparatus of the inner ear. Allergies also affect the ears, as the nasal cavity secretes mucus and inflames the ear cavities.
“We can know when we have our ears full; we feel bewildered,” Chavez said.
As temperatures rise, it is also recommended to drink water, as dehydration can also cause dizziness.
“I had a lady [from a different class] say you weren’t feeling well last Wednesday. He noticed that he was not drinking much water. For that. Hydration is important. It’s important as we get older, ”Chávez said.
Emily Key, an occupational therapist at Onward and Upward Occupational Therapy, said it’s important for seniors to stay active.
“There’s the old saying that a moving body stays moving,” Key said. “Staying mobile and flexible is important. If our muscles can move, they’re less likely to fall.”
To improve balance, Key recommends working the core, which stabilizes the whole body. It is also recommended to walk safely to increase strength and endurance, especially in consultation with a doctor.
“I know yoga may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are tai chi, pilates and other activities,” Key said.
Another important aspect of balance safety is accepting that falls can occur, but there are things that older people can do to reduce the risks at home.
“One thing I do with my patients is make sure their home is set up. Make sure there are no wires,” Key said.
He recommended removing wires from any type of walkway, installing night lights, removing carpets, and making sure the bathroom is accessible.
“Make sure your house is not cluttered. If you have small pets, be careful of them and where they are,” he said.
Older people can also prevent injuries after waking up from a sitting session and taking between 10 and 60 seconds to orient themselves before getting up.
“If you can tweak the environment, that’s half the battle,” Keys said.