Our Fall Prevention program helps Beatrice, 95, maintain her independence.

For women in their 90’s who want to remain independent and live in their own home, finding the right combination of resources to keep them healthy and mobile can be an ongoing challenge. The biggest concern for many of them is simply getting around the house without falling and staying strong enough to bathe, dress, and cook meals. Having social support and companionship is also very important as advanced age often brings on feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Beatrice, at 95, is lucky to have family in the area who check in on her every day and take her out for trips to the grocery store and Macy’s. She likes shopping and gets a thrill out of choosing just the right gift for one of her children. During the past few years her mobility and strength have been declining but she still gets around her house with a walker and is able to dress herself and warm up meals cooked by her son. She attributes some of her success at remaining independent to LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program.

Four years ago, Beatrice and her son read about the program and thought it would be a good way for her to get personalized exercise assistance that was pre-approved by her doctor. They also liked the idea of nursing students coming to the home every week to monitor her progress, maintain her motivation and answer questions. Beatrice says about her experience, “Oh yes, I like the program and want to continue with it.” She says the program has helped her stability and she enjoys visiting with the nurses. It is the first exercise program she has ever participated in.

While she is no longer able to shower or bathe on her own, she still takes short walks with her children and accompanies her son to the grocery store every week for shopping. “We are so happy when the program helps older adults stay in the homes they love for as long as safely possible,” says Maureen Parent, Fall Prevention Coordinator, “sometimes for people in their 90’s, just ‘holding the line’ is an amazing achievement.”

The Fall Prevention program is open to anyone age 60 and older who lives in Fremont, Newark and Union City. The supervised exercise program lasts 12 weeks and includes a medication review and home safety check. For more information or to sign up, call Sandy at 510-574-2087.

Loneliness can be a risk factor for poor health in older adults.

We all know the sayings: ‘a task shared is half as difficult’ or how about ‘many hands make for light work’? Could it be that a task is easier when done by more people – or does having someone to share the experience help us function more effectively? A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “Loneliness in Older Persons,” highlights the connection between loneliness and functional decline.

From 2002 through 2008, the study asked 1,604 seniors if they felt left out, isolated, or lacked companionship – all predictors of loneliness. Among the participants, 43% reported feeling lonely. Lonely individuals were more likely to experience a decline in their mobility and their ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing and getting around in the home. Loneliness was also associated with an increased risk of death.

Given the number of health and social issues that health care providers must prioritize, the identification and treatment of loneliness may seem to be outside the scope of medical practice. Yet many health care providers may be missing a key “risk factor” of poor health.

If you are feeling lonely what can you do? How about a visit to your local senior center? Or, if you are have difficulty getting out of your home, call the telephone support group, “Senior Center Without Walls” at 877-797-7299. You are just a phone call away from enjoyable conversation, engaging group discussions and exploration of specific topics with others. If you are looking for a new friend but don’t know how to find one, call the Friendly Visitors program at LIFE ElderCare at 510-574-2097. This program pairs volunteers from the community with seniors who would like a friend to visit them, one to two hours a week, in their own home.

Or, how about a little exercise to help boost your mood and reduce your risk of falling? The Fall Prevention program at LIFE ElderCare can help with both of these issues. Enjoy a 12-week, personalized, in-home exercise routine that includes a weekly, one-hour coaching session with Unitek College nursing students. The program also offers a home safety check and medication review. Daily exercise will improve your mobility, make you stronger and help your balance. Call Sandy at 574-2088 to learn more.

– Sandy Hallgren

Got Balance?

Do you know how to test yourself to see if you have good balance? A lot of seniors believe they have good balance because they’re still getting around. But if you would like to know if your balance is as good as you believe, here is a simple test you can do.

First, stand with both hands on top of a table or counter, and place both feet firmly on the floor. Now, with both hands still on the counter for safety, gradually lift one foot. So far, so good? Okay, now lift both hands. You should be standing on only one foot without assistance. Could you stay that way for 10 seconds? If yes, your balance is rather good. However if you are like a lot of seniors, you felt unsteady and unsure. Perhaps you wouldn’t even take your hands off of the counter. You’re in good company. Most seniors feel that way. So, what if you do need to improve your balance – is there anything that can help?

Yes! If you are a senior living in the Tri-City area of Fremont, Newark and Union City, call Sandy at LIFE ElderCare 574-2087 to enroll in the free Fall Prevention program. The program provides trained nursing students who will come to your home and instruct you on personalized exercises that will be approved by your doctor which will put the balance back in your life. Improving your balance reduces your risk of falling. A lot of seniors have improved their balance by joining the program and you can too. Call today!

P.S. LIFE ElderCare’s 12-week, in-home exercise program is offered at no cost to home-bound seniors age 60 and older. In addition, you’ll receive a free home safety assessment, minor home modifications and a comprehensive medication review. These combined measures may help decrease your possibility of a bad fall. If you are concerned about falling, doing fall prevention exercises can make all the difference!

–Sandy Hallgren

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2012 edition of the Tri-City Voice.

Elderly participants and registered nursing students benefit from the Sustainability Module in LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program.

Sustainability is a critical component of LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program. Anyone who has begun an exercise program or health improvement regime understands the challenges of maintaining their commitment to it. Now, imagine doing this in your late 80’s while also struggling with multiple chronic and debilitating health problems. The most effective fall prevention program would incorporate ways to maintain contact with their clients, and continue to review their fall risk, years after the initial training. LIFE ElderCare is able to offer this through a partnership with Unitek College’s LVN to RN program.

From the perspective of the registered nursing student, helping seniors maintain their strength and mobility is a challenge that calls upon their experience as a Licensed Vocational Nurse and the new skills and knowledge gained during their RN education. After completing a thorough assessment of the senior’s physical, environmental and psychosocial needs, the RN student gets valuable hands-on training in geriatric home care by helping the senior maintain their initial success.

After the students finish their training, LIFE ElderCare conducts a post-program interview. Here is what one student had to say about his experience.
[Read more…]

More physicians need to ask their patients about falls.

A recent survey by the Hartford Foundation has revealed that only 19% of older adult patients have had their MD talk with them about fall prevention.  This is alarming given the fact that falling is the cause of 90% of all hip fractures and is the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths in older adults.

We recently interviewed Dr. Dianne Martin, a Fremont, CA-based physician, about what she looks for in assessing whether or not someone is a fall risk.  “The patients most likely to take a fall are ones that have balance and mobility problems, decreased muscle strength and are taking medications that affect balance.”  She has found that patients who have even minor falls become less confident and lose their feeling of security when walking.

When a patient tells her about having a fall she recommends the Fall Prevention program at LIFE ElderCare.  “Having someone who comes to their home really motivates them and gets them excited to participate,” she says.

Dr. Martin would like to see more physicians ask their patients whether or not they have had a recent fall because if the fall is minor, many patients forget to bring it up.  If the patients says yes, it gives the physician a great opening to talk about the importance of fall prevention programs.  “More and more older adults want to age independently in their own homes,” says Martin. “Whatever we can do to make this a reality is certainly a plus.”

Learn more about LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program.

View our Fall Prevention Coordinator’s presentation at the 2012 California Wellness Foundation’s Conference on Healthy Aging.

The Lifetime Risk for Osteoporotic Fracture is 50% for Women Over Fifty

At the March 4, Osteoporosis Update at Washington Hospital, I learned a few important things about how to protect my bones.  The first presenter, Dr. Barry Shibuya, clarified the difference for me between osteoporosis and joint pain.   Osteoporosis is painless, (unless you have a fracture), while osteoarthritis hurts.  Also, osteoporosis medication does not relieve joint pain; it only helps protect the body against future bone loss.

Dr. Shibuya alerted the audience to the harmful effect of steroid medication such as Prednisone on bone loss, saying, “If you take 5 mg of Prednisone for three months or longer, you will lose 25% of your bone density within one year.”  To protect against osteoporosis he recommended exercise to build bones (bones are like muscles, they become stronger through resistive exercises), increasing your intake of calcium and Vitamin D, ending bad habits such as smoking and enrolling in a Fall Prevention program.

Maureen Parent, Coordinator of LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program, spoke after Dr. Shibuya and reiterated the importance of exercise in preventing falls.  She pointed out that falls are the number one reason why seniors lose their independence.  After a fall, the fear of falling again restricts a person’s willingness to engage in normal activities.  And, the more sedentary and homebound they become, the more likely they are to fall again.  People who have completed the 12-week, in-home, Fall Prevention class have reported a significant decrease (up to 70%) in their fear of falling again.

The major risk factors for falls are balance impairments, weak muscles, impaired vision, medications, and home environmental hazards such as inadequate lighting, clutter, throw rugs, as well as the incorrect use of assisted devices such as canes and walkers.  The Fall Prevention program at LIFE ElderCare addresses all of the risk factors through a personalized exercise program, assistance with medication management and assistance with reducing hazards in the home.  Enrollment is continuous so if you are age 60 and older, and are predominately homebound, this is a great way to keep you free from falls.

Rachael Vander Martin, Communications Specialist

See links for more information:

LIFE ElderCare Fall Prevention
Assess your Future Fracture Risk
Dr. Barry Shibuya

LIFE ElderCare can help older adults meet the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Meals On Wheels

Meals On Wheels provides one nutritionally balanced, healthy meal a day.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued yesterday by the US Department of Agriculture, focuses on balancing calories with physical activity, and encourages Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.  LIFE ElderCare’s Meals On Wheels program, along with the Fall Prevention program, can help get older Tri-City residents get on track to meet these goals.

Meals delivered through our Meals On Wheels  program are specifically designed to meet the nutritional parameters set by the Older Americans Act and the Alameda Area Agency on Aging.  Every fresh cooked meal provides one-third of the minimum daily requirements for older adults and includes food that is high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  The entrees are low fat, contain no added salt, and are delivered with a pint of milk and fresh fruit.

Our Fall Prevention program helps seniors by enrolling them in a 12-week, personalized, in-home exercise program that includes a weekly support visit from students enrolled in Unitek College’s LVN program.  Through the use of resistance bands, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, participants are able to gradually improve their muscle strength, balance and gait.  This leads to greater mobility, enhanced functioning and less fear about falling in the future.

Here are some of the tips that will be provided to help consumers translate the Dietary Guidelines into their everyday lives:

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and
  • choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Seniors who could benefit from Fall Prevention programs often fall between two worlds.

Fall Prevention programs abound for fit seniors who are able to get to community centers and other group venues where the routines are designed to help those who are healthy, mobile and have a relatively low risk of falling.  But what happens to seniors who don’t meet these minimum requirements; the forgotten seniors who are out of sight from others in their community, who live alone and who are often isolated?  Living independently, with multiple ailments, they are at great risk for a fall.  Perhaps they are recovering from a recent surgery and have exhausted their Medicare benefits for physical therapy. Or, they may have completed the recommended course of action after a fall — hospitalization, release to a skilled nursing facility and perhaps a few in-home physical therapy sessions, but their risk of falling again is still high.

These seniors fall between two worlds. Where services abound for others, they may find themselves too strong for medical care in a skilled nursing facility, yet too frail for a congregate workout.  How do they address the multiple factors that can potentially cause a fall?  Who will inspire, coach and motivate them to build muscle strength to improve their balance and gait, and ultimately reduce their risk of falling?

LIFE ElderCare’s Fall Prevention program addresses each of the leading predictors of a fall:

  • Balance and gait are improved through a personalized exercise routine that is approved by the client’s primary care physician and monitored over a twelve week period, in the participant’s home.
  • Home hazard assessments are completed and minor modifications are provided.
  • Medication management.  An in-depth assessment by a Touro University licensed pharmacist is included with medication cards provided to the client and their primary care physician.

Post assessment data of seniors who complete a 12-week session show an average improvement of 50% on the following factors: balance, strength, flexibility, energy, stamina, mobility and ability to prevent a fall.  A stunning 71% of participants report an improvement in their mood.

Think for a moment about the older adults you know.  Is there someone who could benefit by participating in a Fall Prevention program?  Please help us spread the word.  Additional information is available on our website, by mail, or simply give us a call at 510-574-2088.  Enrollment is continuous so anytime is the perfect time to get started.

Maureen Parent
Fall Prevention Coordinator

Spread the word, falling is not inevitable.

The Fall Prevention program at LIFE ElderCare is starting a new 12-week session in mid-November.  Past participants have reported the following improvements in activities of daily living.

  • Balance 52%
  • Strength 64%
  • Flexibility 54%
  • Energy 60%
  • Stamina 54%
  • Mobility 56%
  • Mood 71%
  • Ability to prevent a fall 63%

What is included in the program, and how it works:

– Personalized in-home exercises.

– Home safety check, minor home modifications (such as grab bars, hand held shower assists, commode rails).

– Medication review for possible drug interactions (which are a significant risk factor in falls).

After you enroll, a Certified Fitness Trainer will come to your home to assess your level of mobility and create a personalized exercise routine that you will be expected to practice over a 10-12 week period. During this time an LVN nursing student from Unitek College will come by every week to answer questions, provide additional instruction and assess your progress.

If you know someone who is age 60 or older and who lives in Fremont, Newark or Union City, call Sandy at 510-574-2087 or send her an email and we’ll get you started.  The program is offered at no charge to Tri-City residents.

Watch video testimonials from two of our participants:
Enis, age 93 and Steve, age 93.

LIFE ElderCare has been providing the basics of life to frail, homebound seniors for the past 35 years.

Walkers and canes can cause falls if they are not fitted and used properly.

Older people sometimes borrow walking aids from friends and family without realizing the danger this can pose.  Using borrowed canes, walkers, and crutches, without adjusting the fit and height appropriately, can cause discomfort and result in injury.

Here are some general tips for those using a cane or walker as a walking aid:

  • The walker or cane should be about the height of your wrists when your arms are at your sides.
  • When using a walker, your arms should be slightly bent when holding on, but you shouldn’t have to bend forward at the waist to reach it.
  • Periodically check the rubber tips at the bottom of the cane or walker. Be sure to replace them if they are uneven or worn through.
  • If you decide to use a walker or cane, or if your doctor suggests that you use one, ask for a referral to a Physical Therapist.
  • Avoid hurrying or walking too fast.
  • Make sure you pick up your feet when you’re walking – avoid shuffling – walk heel-toe.