STEADY U Ohio Spotlight Archive

The STEADY U Ohio web page includes a seasonal spotlight focusing on a timely topic and tips to help prevent falls. Previous spotlights can be accessed here.

STEADY U Ohio

Learn more about the STEADY U Ohio falls prevention initiative.

December 2018: Gifts That Can Prevent Falls

Gifts that keep giving by preventing falls

Gifts that keep giving by preventing falls

It’s that time again – time to give gifts that show how much you care. But what do you give someone who says they have everything they need? Another pair of gloves? Flowers? More candy? How about giving the older adult you love something that’s really useful? How about a gift that will help them avoid a fall?

  • Non-skid slippers: Not only are they practical for fall prevention, they also keep feet warm during cold winter nights. Safer than socks, non-skid slippers can help keep an older adult safe and warm.
  • Winter boots with rubber soles: Investing in a waterproof pair of winter boots with sturdy, non-slip rubber bottoms, can literally be life-saving this winter.
  • A sturdy step stool: Look for large platform steps, slip resistant feet and be sure it has a hand rail for help with balance.
  • A cordless telephone: Having a cordless phone means an older adult can keep it nearby and will not have to rush to answer a call.
  • Welcome mats or trays to absorb moisture from wet boots: A wet floor is a slippery floor. A tray inside an older adult’s door can contain the mess and prevent a possible fall.
  • A promise to shovel snow: Shoveling snow can take a major toll on the body, so giving a loved one the gift of not having to think about it this holiday season is money well-spent.

This year, give a gift that an older adult can not only use, but that will also reduce their risk of a potentially life-changing fall.

November 2018: Caregivers and Falls Prevention

One of caregivers’ many jobs – preventing falls

November is National Caregiver Month, which recognizes the roles caregivers play to help older loved ones remain safe and independent in their own homes and communities. One of the most important jobs a caregiver can do is to help loved ones understand their risk of falling and help them make the changes that can help prevent falls. But what can a caregiver do when their loved one doesn’t want to think about, much less talk about, falls and how to keep from falling?

A caregiver can:

  • Focus on the fun aspect of getting out and moving and doing things your loved one likes. Offer to exercise with her or do any activity she enjoys or would like to try. Being physically active helps to build balance and strengthen muscles.
  • Help your loved one re-decorate and rearrange his home. With his agreement, you can make simple, inexpensive changes that are attractive, yet still reduce the risk of slipping, tripping or falling. Installing extra lighting to brighten stairs and storing frequently used kitchen items within reach can make a loved one’s life easier, as well as safer.
  • Help your loved one clean and de-clutter her home. Again, with her agreement, you can help her get rid of clutter and move seldom used items to a safe location out the path where she usually walks.

Caregivers must balance between ensuring their loved one is safe and respecting her freedom and right to make decisions for herself. A single fall can change someone’s life significantly. Using the Falls Risk Self-assessment can help loved ones see their health and environment in new ways.

The goal is to work with your loved one to help improve the quality of his or her life. And in the process, you can reduce their risk of falls.

More caregiver tips to prevent falls...

October 2018: Autumn Falls Prevention

Leaves are supposed to fall, people aren't

Leaves are supposed to fall, people aren't - Autumn tips for falls prevention

After a long, hot summer, autumn is finally here. The days are getting shorter and cooler, and the trees in your neighborhood are taking on new colors. While we expect autumn leaves to fall, we know that people shouldn’t.

Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. One in three older Ohioans will fall this year, but that doesn’t have to be the case. As Summer turns to Fall, here are some changes you can make to your home, health and habits to lower your risk for a potentially life-changing fall:

  • Shorter days means less daylight during the morning and evening hours. Make sure you have plenty of lighting in your home so you can see obstacles in your way. Use the maximum wattage bulbs in your light fixtures and consider night lights for hallways.
  • Avoid walking on leaves and other tree debris in walkways. Even the slightest moisture can make these things very slippery, and debris can hide tripping hazards beneath.
  • As the temperature drops, bundle up to stay warm, but make sure you can see in all directions and move easily and freely.
  • Keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) free of dirt and mud. Dry them off immediately upon coming in from wet conditions. Remember, wet shoes are just as dangerous as wet floors.
  • Ask your doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises that can help you maintain strength and balance when you can’t venture out.

September 2018: Talking With Loved Ones About Falls Prevention

Let's talk about falls prevention
September is Falls Preve
ntion Awareness Month

Talking with Older Loved Ones About Falls Prevention

September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to talk with your older loved ones about falls and the many things they can do to reduce their risk and prevent them.

A single fall can change a loved one’s life significantly and make her less independent and more reliant on others. You want to help, but find she doesn’t want to talk about the subject. Falls also affect family members and others, so you need to find a balance between ensuring your loved one’s safety and respecting her right to make her own decisions.

Bring the topic up frequently and be persistent, but respectful. If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, that's OK. Let it go for the time being, but bring the topic up again, soon.

Start the conversation by assuring her that falling is not a normal part of aging. While many age-related factors increase risk, most falls can be prevented. Share stories of others you know who have fallen and ask open-ended questions like: "What could he have done to prevent that fall?"

Talk to your loved one about remaining healthy and active. That includes eating nutritious meals and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, along with physical activity to maintain strength, flexibility and balance. Find activities you enjoy together and volunteer to exercise with your loved one.

Look around your loved one’s home for common falls risks and talk about how to remove them. Look for rugs and poorly lit areas first. Rearrange kitchens, bathrooms and closets to minimize bending and stretching. Encourage the use of canes or walkers and make sure they are adjusted properly. Discuss more substantial changes, like adding grab bars to the bathroom, second railings to stairs and extra lighting.

More tips for talking with loved ones about falls prevention...

July-August 2018: Fairs, Festivals and Falls

Ohio’s festivals and destinations can be fun tools to help you prevent falls

Ohio’s festivals and destinations can be fun tools to help you prevent fallsFrom bratwurst, to sweet corn, to folk music, to antique farm machinery, Ohio has a festival to celebrate each of these and more. Along with the state’s world-class zoos and amusement parks, local fairs and festivals are fun getaways and great places to get some exercise, which is important to help prevent falls in your day-to-day life.

But outdoor events and attractions do present some unique falls risks:

  • Uneven walkways - As much as possible, stick to paved surfaces and sidewalks. If you must walk in grass or gravel, watch the ground closely with your eyes, but keep your head up and face forward. Consider using a cane or walking stick for off-road walking.
  • Obstacles in walkways - Trash, hoses and cables in walkways can cause you to slip or trip. Watch where you are walking and do not step on or over items in your path.
  • People - Heavy crowds can affect the way you walk and cause you to more easily trip or be knocked over. Consider attending events and attractions during off-peak times, such as early in the day and on weekdays, to avoid large crowds.
  • The elements - Dehydration and exhaustion can make you unsteady on your feet before you realize you feel tired or thirsty. Take frequent breaks to sit down and rest. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids to stay hydrated.

You can also ensure you stay on your feet and have a great time with a little advanced planning.

  • Check the event or venue website for advice on avoiding crowds and long lines, as well as maps, parking information and other tools to plan your visit.
  • Most venues welcome guests with wheelchairs and motorized mobility scooters and may offer on-site rentals. Call ahead to check cost and availability.
  • Bring any necessary medications with you in a sealed, waterproof container.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and light-colored, lightweight, all-cotton clothing.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection and consider a hat with a brim to minimize glare.

Plan to join us at the Ohio State Fair on Senior Day, July 31, 2018, for the “Well Beyond 60!” EXPO. Take advantage of more than a dozen free health screenings and services, including computerized balance testing.

Related links:

Heat-related illness and older adults
Find your next destination with Ohio Tourism

June 2018: Exercise to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Exercise could be your best bet to reduce your risk of falling

Exercise programs focused on strength and resistance training, as well as balance and gait, help reduce the risk of fallsThe U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendations on the best ways to prevent falls in older adults. The strongest finding indicates that exercise programs focused on strength and resistance training, as well as balance and gait, help reduce the risk of falls. Checking someone’s medications, vision and home environment also is effective, but the real key to staying on your feet is continued exercise.

Any type of exercise helps, from lifting your legs while you watch TV and marching in place, to walking, to exercise programs like yoga and tai chi. Here are a few examples to try.

  • Foot Taps - Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart in front of a step (the bottom step of a staircase will work) or low piece of furniture. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly raise one foot to tap the step in front of you, and then return it to the floor. Perform 15 to 20 taps, then repeat on the opposite leg. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
  • Head Rotations - Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Slowly move your head from side to side then up and down while keep your body as still as possible. Do this for 30 seconds, then repeat. If you get dizzy, pause and move your head more slowly. If you’re still dizzy, stop. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
  • Standing Marches - Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. If needed, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. From here, lift one knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor (or as close to parallel as you can go) while you keep your torso straight and avoid any leaning. Pause, then slowly return your foot to the floor. Perform 20 marches, alternating between legs with each march. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.
  • Sit-To-Stands - Stand tall with your back facing a sturdy chair and your feet hip-width apart. If you need to, hold onto the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Sit back and slowly lower your hips onto the chair as gently as possible. Without swinging your torso, push through your heels to stand up. Perform 10 times. As you get stronger, perform the move without holding onto anything.

The USPSTF also found that taking vitamin D does not prevent falls. While it may not prevent a fall, it is still vital for strong bones and muscles. Eating fish, fortified milk, yogurt and egg yolks will add vitamin D to your diet. Sunlight actually helps your body produce vitamin D. Just 13-16 minutes a day in sunlight will produce benefits. Talk to your doctor about how you can increase your vitamin D level.

A Matter of Balance, available through your area agency on aging, is a program that helps reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels among older adults. Participants learn about the importance of exercise in preventing falls; practice exercises to improve strength, coordination and balance; see how to conduct a home safety evaluation; and gain strategies to get up and down safely. Participants engage in 25 minutes of exercise at the start of each class.

May 2018: Know Your Risks

The best way to prevent a fall? Know your risk of falling

Falls Risk Self-Assessment

Falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. But you can’t prevent a fall unless you recognize that there is a risk. Do any of the following statements applies to you or a loved one?

  • I have fallen in the past year.*
  • I use or have been advised to use a cane or walker to get around safely.*
  • Sometimes I feel unsteady when I am walking.
  • I steady myself by holding onto furniture when walking at home.
  • I am worried about falling.
  • I need to push with my hands to stand up from a chair.
  • I have some trouble stepping up onto a curb.
  • I often have to rush to the toilet.
  • I have lost some feeling in my feet.
  • I take medicine that sometimes makes me feel light-headed or tired.
  • I take medicine to help me sleep or improve my mood.
  • I often feel sad or depressed.

Give yourself one point for each statement you answered with “yes.” (Add two points for items marked with “*.” If you scored four points or more, you may be at increased risk for falls. Talk to your health care provider and ask for a comprehensive falls risk assessment. Be prepared to talk about your history of falls, your medications and your physical activity level.

You can also take an interactive version of this assessment, with results you can print and take to your doctor.

Once you know what is putting you at risk for a fall, your next step is to do whatever you need to do help prevent a fall. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for tips and resources.

April 2018: Keep the Spring In Your Step

Keep the Spring in Your Step and Avoid Weather Related Falls

Keep the "Spring" in your step

After a long, hard winter, Spring is finally here. We can get out and enjoy the outdoors and get some much-needed exercise. However, severe spring weather and other conditions can increase your risk of falling:

  • Rain and mud – Mud can be as slippery as snow and ice and can get on a variety of surfaces indoors and out. Avoid walkways that are covered with mud. Clean wet and dried mud off of your shoes and walking aids to maintain the most traction.
  • Storms – Spring storms can cause a variety of tripping hazards from power outages to debris in outdoor walkways. If you can’t see the path before you, find another way.
  • Flooding – Never walk or drive into flood waters! Still water can make you trip and moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Increased activity –Ask your doctor or physical therapist about strategies to safely increase your activity level.

Falls are not a normal part of aging, but as we age, we may be more susceptible to serious injury from a fall. One in three Ohioans age 65 and older will fall this year, and that rate goes up to one in two after age 79.

Fortunately, most falls can be prevented when you understand your risks and take steps to remove or avoid hazards.

March 2018: A Prescription to Prevent Falls

A Prescription to Prevent Falls

Prescription to Prevent Falls

STEADY U Ohio thanks Ruth Emptage, PharmD, BCGP, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, Ohio Pharmacists Association for contributing this article.

Medications are one of the best ways to treat chronic conditions and other health issues. Unfortunately, they can sometimes cause side effects, such as putting a person at risk for falls. There are five key ways to minimize your risk of falls from medications.

  1. Review your complete list of medications with your pharmacist or doctor to look for those that may increase your risk for falls.
  2. Include non-prescription medications (e.g., over-the-counter medicines, herbal supplements, natural products) on the list you share with your doctor and pharmacist.
  3. Discuss the risk-versus-benefit of any medications that could increase your risk for falls.
  4. Work with your doctor to decrease the dose, stop the medication, or switch it to a better alternative. Do not stop a medication without talking to your doctor.
  5. When discussing a new medication with your doctor, ask if it can increase the risk for falls and what alternate medications could be used.

Medications that affect the brain, blood pressure and blood sugar are the most likely to contribute to increased risk for falls. Medications for sleep or anxiety, referred to as "psychoactive" medicines, can contribute to an increased risk of falls. Non-prescription medications which have PM in the name contain a medication called diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl) are also known to increase fall risk. Reduce your falls risk by talking to your pharmacist!

February 2018: Don't Fall For Me, Valentine!

This Valentine’s Day, tell your loved one: “Don’t fall for me!”

Don't fall for me, Valentine!

Love is in the air, but hidden falls risks may be underfoot for someone you love. You could celebrate this time of love and devotion with just flowers or a box of chocolates. Or you could help the people you care about most prevent falls and fall-related injuries. Valentine’s day provides a great opportunity to talk about falls prevention in a fun way, while showing how deeply you care.

The STEADY U Ohio initiative suggests discussing these falls risk factors with older loved ones:

  • Fear of falling – Being afraid of falling can cause your loved ones to change their behavior in ways that actually increase their risk of falling.
  • Chronic conditions – Medications for chronic conditions common in older adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and pain, can make them dizzy or drowsy.
  • Nutrition – If your loved ones aren’t eating a balanced diet rich in vital nutrients, they may not have the strength they need to stay on their feet or avoid injury if they do fall.
  • Hydration – If your loved ones aren’t getting enough non-alcoholic liquids to drink, they may experience dizziness and instability.
  • Assistive devices – Canes and walkers can help some older adults significantly reduce their risk for falling, but only if properly adjusted and used appropriately.
  • Environmental hazards – Inadequate lighting, clutter, rugs, pets and floors in need of repair are some of the most common fall risks in the home.

Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for more tips and resources to prevent falls.

January 2018: Winter Falls Prevention

Take steps to prevent a fall this winter!

One of the biggest risks from wintry weather is falling, particularly among older adults. Icy conditions make it harder to stay on your feet, and the cold may cause us to limit our activity, which can lead to loss of strength and balance. Be Winter STEADY with these tips to stay on your feet this winter:

  • Have an overall winter preparedness plan.
  • Maintain regular physical activity to ensure you have the strength and balance you need to prevent falls. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about easy indoor exercises and seek opportunities to be active.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water to make sure you have the strength and focus to stay on your feet. Do some light stretching before going outdoors in cold or snowy weather to be more flexible and steady.
  • Coats, gloves, hats and other winter clothing are designed to keep you warm, but items that are bulky, don't fit well or can catch on nearby objects can increase your risk of falling.
  • Wear boots and shoes that fit properly and have soles with good traction. Keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) dry and free of snow, ice, dirt and mud.
  • Keep sidewalks and stairs outside your home clean of ice and snow. Make sure steps leading into your home have sturdy handrails that can support you if you slip. Carry a small bag or shaker of rock salt, sand or kitty litter in your pocket or purse to sprinkle in front of you for traction on icy paths.
  • When walking on surfaces that may be icy, shorten your stride and walk with feet pointed out slightly and knees gently bent to improve traction and balance. Avoid walking in more than an inch of snow. Snow can hide curbs, uneven surfaces and other tripping hazards.
  • Carry a cell phone and designate someone to call for help if you need it. Let loved ones know when you are leaving the house and when you expect to be back; call them after you return home.
  • Ask your post office, newspaper and garbage collector about service options that might make it safer for you when conditions are bad.
  • Invest in extra lamps, nightlights and exterior lights so that you can always see where you are walking, especially around doorways and stairs. Use the highest-wattage bulbs recommended for your fixtures.
  • Keep space heaters, cords and blankets out of walkways. If you must use throw rugs on cold floors, secure them to the floor with tape.