To paraphrase an old joke, it is not so much falling that concerns local seniors, it’s the consequences afterward that matter. Gina Gammons, coordinator of the Northwest Piedmont Falls Free Coalition, is conducting educational sessions in Surry, Stokes, and Yadkin counties to give seniors the information to avoid life-changing falls.
“A lot of things occur from a fall,” said Gammons. “You could be sore or you could break a hip. There can be many complications from spinal or hip injury.”
Gammons, who also works with Surry County Senior Services, said nationally one out of three adults over 65 are involved in falling yearly and less than half of those talk with their medical care professionals about the incidents.
“I don’t know if it is out of some type of pride or why they do not seek medical attention,” said Gammons. “Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths for seniors.” Gammons said she has been working with Amy Snow of Mountain Valley Hospice as well as Surry County Health Educators Maggie Simmons and Selena Watson on the presentations.
One of the programs is a Timed Up and Go test where participants are clocked for the amount of time to move from being seated, walking a 10-foot course, returning and taking a seat again. Gammons said the TUG test determines if a senior’s risk of falling is high or low because of mobility.
Gammons said another popular activity in the program is Fall Prevention Bingo. Different pictures are called out with the numbers to explain various strategies that will eliminate tripping or falling hazards. She said that using simple solutions such as watching out for pets under foot and using night lights make a difference.
“As we age we need brighter lights,” said Gammons. “Placing a light between the bedroom and the bathroom decreases falling because of dimly lit areas. Another important thing is to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about side effects of medications. Many falls happen because senior don’t anticipate being drowsy or dizzy.”
She also said that seniors can reduce the risk of falling by getting rid of clutter, putting non-skid strips in bathtubs, getting rid of unnecessary electrical cords on the floor and having their eyesight checked at least once a year. Other accidents could be avoided by installing extra handrails, nonskid strips on stairs, and keeping frequently used things at waist level.
Seniors are also encouraged to keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone and to get up slowly after sitting or laying down.
“Throw rugs need to go. They are a common cause of falls,” continued Gammons. “Rugs can be secured with double-sided carpet tape to the floor. Towel bars will not help you if you are falling. They can only support the weight of a towel. Seniors should install grab bars in their bathrooms. There is the fear of falling afterwards. The longer you can stay active the better off you can be.”
Gammons said that Tai Chi exercise classes are offered at the Mount Airy Senior Center and the Pilot Mountain Senior center. The classes are held Wednesdays in Mount Airy at 10:30 a.m. and in Pilot Mountain at 1 p.m.
Another class, called A Matter of Balance, includes eight two-hour classes presented by trained coaches. Classes include group discussions, mutual problem solving, exercises to improve strength, coordination and balance as well as a home safety evaluation. Gammons added that if enough interest is expressed the county senior center could schedule classes.