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Read the latest article written by EPPIA members, published in the Eden Prairie News.

Preventing Falls is the Key to Staying Independent

We managed to make it through another challenging Minnesota winter packed with cold weather and icy surfaces. Perhaps you or someone you know is still recovering from an unexpected slip on the ice. For many older adults the possibility of a fall, both inside and outside of the home is a year round concern.

Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths. They are also a common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, with more than one third of adults 65 and older falling each year in the United States. Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging advocates for public awareness and action to reduce falls in older adults.

The first key to awareness is learning how and why falls occur. Physiological and cognitive changes that are common with aging increase the likelihood of falls. As we age there are naturally occurring changes in vision, hearing, mental processing, strength, endurance and flexibility. In addition, many persons also manage medical conditions that are common in adults such as arthritis, cardiac disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia. The combination of natural aging plus weakness and disabilities of other diseases put the affected adult at a higher risk than the general population. The greater the number of risk factors both physiologically and environmentally, the greater the probability for falls.

A good way to get started with fall prevention is to perform an assessment of an individual’s risk factors. From this assessment, steps may be taken to reduce the risks. There are simple screening assessment tools available. However, in complex situations, a trained professional such as a home care nurse, occupational or physical therapist, physician or social worker may be able to provide a more comprehensive plan.

There are many common fall prevention interventions that you can put into action today to begin lowering your risks.

Obtain an annual physical exam including an assessment of all medications and a thorough vision and hearing evaluation. Sight, hearing, coordination and loss of muscle strength can affect balance and medication side effects can contribute to dizziness.
Establish an exercise plan to maintain or increase your strength, endurance and flexibility. A physical therapist or athletic trainer may be helpful in setting up an appropriate exercise plan. Simply going for a walk is a great way to get moving, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
Be safe at home by removing clutter from your pathways, such as telephone and electric cords and newspapers and boxes. Immediately wipe up any spills and secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or slip-resistant backing, or simply get rid of those throw rugs all together. Watch out for pets under foot as well. When indoors, avoid walking in just your stocking-feet on slippery floors. Wear shoes or soled slippers that enclose your whole foot or socks with non-skid soles on them.
Always keep your surroundings well lit and place nightlights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
Add assistive devices where necessary like handrails on both sides of the stairs and grab bars placed inside and outside of the shower, as well as next to the toilet. Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub, and consider using a shower chair. In addition, some adults may benefit from using a properly fitted assistive device such as a cane, walker, scooter or wheelchair.
Taking these small simple steps today can help prevent big falls from happening tomorrow. For guidance in intitating your personal fall prevention plan, please visit the Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging (EPPIA) website at www.edenprairieaging.org.

Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging is a non-profit organization based in Eden Prairie, a town of 50,000 in the southwestern Twin Cities. Our diverse member organizations are all committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. Our purpose is to provide networking opportunities for individuals who provide services to elderly persons in Eden Prairie by meeting bimonthly for information exchange and problem solving in our field.

Submitted by EPPIA Members:
and Heather Reynolds, CSA, At Home Solutions, LLC, www.athomesolutionsllc.com
Joanne Bartel PT, Prairie Adult Care, www.prairieadultcare.com
Lisa Schmidtke, Owner, Able Deluxe, www.AbleDeluxe.com

What is the Role of a Geriatric Care Manager?

Geriatric Care Managers are resource specialists and advocates for seniors and their families. They can be social workers, nurses, gerontologists, psychologists or other health and human services specialists. They are dedicated to assisting elders and their loved ones navigate the health care system. They assist with current day to day care issues, ongoing care management, crisis management, and future care planning. They are skilled at securing appropriate living arrangements and coordinating myriad services for complicated medical/psychiatric needs. Geriatric Care Managers are professional problem solvers and can be your guide to the complicated and sometimes confusing array of services that are available in our community.

What are the benefits for seniors and families working with an independent geriatric care manager? Geriatric Care Managers represent seniors and families. They draw on their training and experience in the senior care industry to provide professional care planning, care supervision and high quality, cost effective services. Geriatric Care Managers conduct a needs assessment addressing medical, social, emotional, legal, financial, and housing needs. Care options are presented based on the individual situation and elder/ family needs. Geriatric Care Managers assist in navigating through a variety of services as the elder's condition changes. They provide continuity and coordination with doctors, home health care agencies, and other providers. This includes monitoring care and advocating on the elder’s behalf as often as necessary to ensure quality care. Geriatric Care Managers can be the ‘eyes and ears’ for out-of-town family members; not only to assist with services in the home of a senior, but, also to objectively assess care in a facility and function as a liaison with far away family. Geriatric Care Managers facilitate family communication and aid in the decision-making process. Geriatric Care Managers can help in selecting the appropriate Assisted Living Facility or other housing options. They can save a family time and money by researching facilities and negotiating the lease and/or contract with or for them.

Most families truly want to do the best for their elders, but without the aid of a knowledgeable professional, they may still be worried and unsure. Geriatric Care Managers help to give the family “peace of mind” and the certainty that they have done all they could. Geriatric Care Managers can help family communicate the need for services or the importance of making a move. They can assist elders in securing family support for their decisions. Also, they can help explain the situation to family members who may be overwhelmed, resistant or in denial.

What should a consumer look for in a Geriatric Care Manager? Experience in the field is essential. Affiliation with a professional organization such as social work or nursing is important so there is a governing body to whom they are responsible and from whom a code of ethics is based. Geriatric Care Managers should not be affiliated with other care providers (such as home health care agencies) to avoid conflicts of interest. There should be clarity regarding their fee schedule. Typically, GCMs are available for emergency situations. Many GCMs are available 24/7. When should you call a Geriatric Care Manager?

When you are overwhelmed with the options or don’t know where to start researching options.
When you are out of town and unable to attend to the needs of your loved one.
When there is a crisis and you need help right away to facilitate change.
When family is conflicted about the direction to take for a loved one’s care.
When an objective opinion is needed to assess a living situation.
When you want a professional to attend a care conference with you or for you.
When you are having difficulty communicating with family members or with the professionals caring for your loved one.
When you are not satisfied with the care your loved one is receiving.
Geriatric Care Managers are a fee-for-service entity. They do not receive payment from Medicare or Medicaid and they do not take referral fees from third party providers, insurance companies or equipment manufacturers. However, some Long Term Care Insurance policies now recognize the importance of these services and cover the cost.

Here are some options if you are interested in working with an Independent Professional Geriatric Care Manager:

Care Options Network, www.careoptionsnetwork.org, 952.945.4077
Senior Linkage Line www.minnesotahelp.info, 800.333.2433
Alzheimer’s Association www.alzmndak.org, 800.232.0851
National Association of Elder Law Attorneys www.naela.com
Life Care Planning Law Firms Association http://www.lcplfa.org/
National Association of GCM at www.caremanager.org, 520.881.8008
Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging is a professional networking organization made up of representatives of diverse organizations, all committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. For more information on EPPIA and a list of resources regarding activities in Eden Prairie, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org/.

Submitted by EPPIA member: Joyce M. Konczyk, LSW, Geriatric Care Manager, 612.227.7414

Home Safety

Injuries sustained in the home, sometimes life threatening are common among older adults. Simple everyday items and activities in the home can become safety hazards to a person whose health has declined. Assessing the hazards, either by yourself or with a professional, is very important. Many simple steps can prevent injury and create a safer living environment.

Fall Prevention
According to the National Safety Council (www.nsc.org), thousands of Americans age 65 years and older die as a result of falls, and over a million have a fall injury that results in an emergency room visit. They are also one of the leading causes of admission to nursing homes.

Do a quick sweep of the floors. If there are any throw rugs, either remove them or use non-slip backing or double-sided tape so the rugs won’t slip or bunch up.
· Keep the floor free of clutter and objects like magazines, papers, shoes and extension cords.

· Keep the stairways well lit and free of objects. . Install a handrail in all stairwells and be sure all carpeting is secure or that stairs have non-skid rubber treads. A strip of color contrast tape on the edge of the step can also enhance the safety for persons with vision loss.

In the bathroom
Install grab-bars near the toilet and in the bath tub and shower areas. Add a non-slip rubber matt on the tub/shower floor or use a tub/shower bench.
To avoid scalds, turn water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Mark cold and hot faucets clearly.
Use door locks that can be opened from both sides.
If possible, bathe when help is available.
· Take a look at the medications that you are taking. Some of them can make you sleepy or dizzy which can lead to poor balance and falls.

· Discuss balance or dizziness with your physician or physical therapist and consider an appropriate exercise program.

· Install a night light in bedroom and bathroom

· Inspect and repair outdoor steps and sidewalks. Install handrails as needed.

Fire Prevention

· Check that all electrical appliances, plugs and cords are in good working order.

· If a space heater is used, make sure it is away from flammable objects or where it may be knocked over.

· Install fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, and regularly check their operation.

· Clearly mark EXITS and keep free of clutter.

· Keep kitchen stove and burners clear of flammable objects. Assess the safety steps taken while the older adult is using the stove or microwave. Take constructive steps accordingly.

· Read and review the manufacturer’s instructions on heating pads/electric blankets. Remove the blanket if there are any signs of damage or if it is not operating properly.

· Use extreme caution when smoking. Never smoke when alone or in bed.

Poison Prevention

· Clearly mark all medication and dosage.

· Remove outdated or spoiled food.

Emergency Response

· Post emergency contact phone numbers near all phones,

· Fill out a File of Life is which makes your medical history available to emergency personnel. The file is useful in situations if you become unconscious or unable to share information about your medications or allergies. File of Life packets are available at the Eden Prairie Senior Center and the Eden Prairie Police and Fire Departments. For more information about the File of Life, contact Officer Elizabeth Stroner at 952-949-6200.

Many members of the Eden Prairie Professionals in Aging group are available to help you assess your home safety and recommend constructive safety tips specific to your situation. What will take you only a few minutes today, can save you a lot of time, money and heartache tomorrow. www.edenprairieaging.org

Contributing authors:

Heather Reynolds, At Home Solutions @ www.athomesolutionsllc.com

Joanne Bartel, Prairie Adult Care @ www.prairieadultcare.com

Dominic Gambino, A Place for Mom @ www.aplaceformom.com

Judy Heim, Heartland Home Care @ www.heartlandhomecare.com

Lisa Schmidtke, Independent Home Living @ http://www.IHLCaregiver.com

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