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Resources abound to prepare for and prevent falls while at home

by Sam Richards

Staff Writer

 

Monday, March 18 (10 a.m.): When a 78-year-old resident of a manor off Running Springs Road fell inside her home Feb. 29 and couldn’t get up, she deployed a can of bear spray, thinking pushing the nozzle would make a horn-type noise alerting neighbors that she needed help.

Neighbors who responded to the woman’s screams had a hard time breathing because of the bear spray; the woman and one of her neighbors were taken to the hospital for treatment.

While the bear spray made the Feb. 29 incident unusual, such falls are anything but. The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that one in four Americans 65 or older falls in a given year; one of every five such falls results in a significant injury, such as broken bones or a concussion or other head injury. About 32,000 people die as a result of injuries suffered in those falls, the CDC says.

When organizers of a September 2023 fall-prevention conference at the Rossmoor Event Center asked attendees how many of them had suffered a fall in the previous year, almost half of them raised their hands.

Penny Reed, manager of Rossmoor Counseling Services, said Rossmoor – with its average residents’ age of 77 – is full of people who need to do whatever is necessary to reduce their chances of falling, and to be prepared in the event they do fall.

“It takes a little bit of humility to recognize we have that fallibility, and every year that grows,” said Reed, whose office will organize and host another fall-prevention event in September. “We’re all going to fall at some point in our lives.”

Reed said the Counseling Services office at Gateway offers connections with several entities that can help seniors prevent avoid falls and be ready for them when they do occur. One such connection is the Rotary Home Team, through area Rotary clubs, which sends volunteers to seniors’ homes to perform basic home-maintenance tasks– tasks that sometimes can lead to falls occurring.

Another such entity is Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, which offers several services related to preventing falls.

Sherry Nadworny, the Diablo Region’s director of development and community relations, said her organization, based in Walnut Creek, generally has 80 to 90 Rossmoor clients at any given time. Nadworny said MOW tries to take a holistic approach to services – that is, where there is food insecurity, there may well be other factors at play affecting seniors’ health, which her staff works to address.

“Someone might not have needed meals brought to them until they fall and break a hip – then they could become food insecure,” Nadworny said.

MOW can send an occupational therapist to a home to assess the degree of fall risk that exists there. Such factors include the degree of clutter present, whether there are loose throw rugs, extension cords or similar obstacles around the house, or whether grab bars or other similar amenities are in a residence or can be installed.

These and other services beyond delivered meals are free and available to residents of Contra Costa County (including Rossmoor) 60 and older, with no income requirements, Nadworny said.

MOW also offers exercise programs to help seniors increase strength and improve balance, which helps reduce the risk of tripping and falling, Nadworny said. Go to https:// tinyurl.com/4wwenba8 to learn more about MOW fall-prevention programs.

The Rossmoor Fund, a nonprofit to benefit the charitable and educational needs of the Rossmoor community, makes grants to pay for home improvements (performed by Davis Home Pros) to increase safety by reducing fall risk. The Rossmoor Fund also pays for medical alert bracelets that notify first responders (including Securitas) of a medical emergency and provide specifics about a patient’s medical history.

Claire Wolfe, Rossmoor Fund’s president, said singles earning $45,000 or less annually, or couples with an annual income of $75,000 or less, can apply for a grant. Applications can be found online, and Rossmoor Fund grant application guidelines can be found at https://tinyurl.com/37dk9ky9 Tice Creek Fitness Center offers classes in Tai Chi, muscle conditioning and other classes that improve physical strength and reduce the risk of a fall, Reed said. She added that the Counseling Center stands ready to help Rossmoor residents obtain or apply for any of the services mentioned above; call 1-925-988-7750 or email counseling@rossmoor.com for more information.

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