Fall is here! During National Fall Prevention Awareness Week, Melissa sat down with Gaylene Mukopfa Paul, RN and Regional VP of Resident Care at The Arbor Company, to dive deeper into the important topic of fall prevention. Gaylene discusses the factors that can make someone a fall risk and how to assess your loved one, and shares her expert tips on how to prevent falls in your living space.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone and welcome in to Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. As always, I hope you are having a fantastic day today and we appreciate you watching, and we are so glad you could share your afternoon with us either via video or finding us via podcast. The first day of fall kicks off National Fall Prevention Awareness Week. We are there now, the weather is starting to change. It feels great outside, but we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to dive a little bit deeper into this topic about fall prevention. It is an important one, for sure, as we age. And it's a topic my guest today, Gaylene Mukopfa Paul, knows a lot about. Gaylene, how are you today?

- I'm amazing. How are you?

- I am doing fantastic. The vitamin D all of the sudden we're finally getting in Georgia is paying off. I think everybody can't wait to be outside, but we got to do things safely. And that is what we're discussing today. And I hope that by the end of our conversation, our viewers will be able to take away some easy tips that they can implement as of today to make their living space a fall-free location. But first, before we dive into that, let's go ahead and talk a little bit about your background. Tell us who you are, what you've been doing for the Arbor Company the past couple of years.

- Yeah, so I'm Gaylene Mukopfa Paul. I am a registered nurse. I am the regional vice president of resident care, so all things care, and what a way for me to talk about fall prevention. This is what keeps us up at night and just helping you to put some things in place. Interventions are critical. So that's what I do for the Arbor Company, and I'm so glad to be with you today, Melissa.

- We're so glad you could be here to help us discuss this wonderful topic. We leave this up to the experts. You are an expert when it comes to this, as you said, it keeps you up at night and I can understand why. I like that there are all of these entities that are coming up becoming more vocal about raising awareness when it comes to fall prevention. But for those who may not understand why we're talking about this, why is it so important that we have this discussion and why are falls so dangerous for seniors?

- Yes, I'm glad you asked that question. So falls is really one of those things where, especially for our seniors with dementia, or as we age, you know, our body change. Our body change. Our gait is different. Our vision is different. How we walk is different. Strength is different. So really falls can put us at risk to get fractures. It can put us at risk to be bedbound due to the fracture. It can cause us to have major injuries that then require us to have stitches, to have glue and then wounds. So it's a trickle down effect. So prevention is really one of the key things. And I think that's why it raises so much awareness. Firefighters are having to go in homes to pick up the elderly from falling. Police officers are having to help. It really is a community-wide agenda to really prevent these falls from happening. And they're dangerous for seniors because of all these complications that come about. You know, fractures are horrible. They having to have to go to the hospital. Hospitalizations may lead to dehydration. Dehydration may lead to sepsis. Sepsis may lead to... It's just a lot of things could happen with our seniors just based on just them falling.

- Yeah, it is incredible. And you hear stories about it all the time of health issues, accelerating or cropping up simply based on the fall itself. And then you have five other problems that somebody is now dealing with based on the one incident. So obviously prevention is key here. So I guess for our viewers, what makes someone a fall risk and are there ways to properly assess this?

- Yes, absolutely. So some of the risk factors is vision, right? The way that we might see, our depth perception changes as we age. Our gait disturbances. You might have some other comorbidities, like arthritis, osteoporosis, your bones are weaker. That puts you at risk for falling. Heart disease can put you at risk for falling. High blood pressure can put you at risk for falling. Footwear, believe it or not, the type of shoes that we wear can put us at risk for falling. Lighting in our household can put us at risk for falling. If we don't have enough lighting that we can track and pat to the bathroom at night, can put us at risk for falling. Clutter can put us at risk for falling. A lot of furniture, a lot of stuff, just everywhere can put us at risk for falling. And there are ways that we can assess. So we start with the environment. That's the one thing that we can do. Take a look at the environment around you. Remove clutter. Less is better. That's one thing that I can say. We look at the medications. Some medications put you at risk for falling. So we'll look at the medications. We'll look at some of the diagnoses that that person might have. Some psychiatric diagnoses can put that person at risk for falling. Then we'll combine all of that and see what's the best plan of care. Really looking at that individual and put that plan in place, whether it's eliminating a lot, some of the medications and adding some non-pharmacological interventions. If it's for pain, for anxiety, agitation, finding ways to add more movement might help. So those are the things that put somebody at risk for falling. There's a lot of stuff, but those are the key things that I can think of.

- Yeah, and as we talk about risks, you're starting to now develop a pattern for ways to prevent falls. And that leads us to the next question. What are some ways that our seniors, their spouses, their loved ones, a senior living community can help our seniors prevent falls?

- All right, so the first thing is good lighting. Our seniors need good lighting throughout the household. Remove clutter. Make it so easy and simple for them to maneuver. Easy access to things you use the most, like if you normally use a lot of cups, put them on the level of the shelf in the cabinet where you can reach them so you're not having to tip over. I would say, keep active. Use it. Use your muscles, use your body. It helps with your balance. I would say, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about falls on your next visit so that they can look at your drug regimen to make sure that the medications you are on are helping you first to cure whatever the disease is, but also they're not putting you at a major risk to fall. I would say, be sure to check your vision at least once a year. That's critical. As we age, we need to look at our eyes more often. Check your feet when you go to the podiatrist. Make sure they are looking at your feet. And then fall-proof your home, and we're going to talk about, a little bit more about, fall-proofing your home and some ideas in a little bit.

- Yeah, absolutely. Those are some great places to start for sure. Now exercise, right? So we just had a nice little webinar with Veronica Barnaby who does fitness. She's an engagement director and really into fitness, and her idea of fitness is to not only make you stronger, but to also create that sense of balance, right? To sort of help with fall prevention. So how can exercise help in this way?

- All right. So keep active, like I said a few minutes ago. Use it or we will lose it, okay? In this case, it is balance and strength, okay? We are working on both balance, like you just said, and strength. Focus on exercises that strengthen the leg muscles and improve balance. That can go a long way. So Tai Chi can help, okay? These are proven methods to help improve with your strength and balance. They also help with coordination, flexibility in a gentle, really relaxing way. If you ever did Tai-Chi, it's very relaxing, but you're working your muscles to improve balance. Water workouts, water aerobics will help with balance and strengthening. I would say that if you keep doing this, exercise will help to build those muscles, especially if you have pre-existing conditions like I said earlier, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, they are degenerative diseases. They don't get better, but exercise will help keep the muscles that you still have and strengthen your legs so that you can prevent falls.

- Yeah, so exercise in general, no matter where you are at your fitness level, and we hear it from people like you, from Veronica, from orthopedic surgeons that we've had on who want to keep you out of his office, believe it or not.

- It all goes back to, like you said, use it or lose it. And that is a very real thing as we continue to age, so I'm so glad you mentioned that. Finally, what are some resources, I guess, that you can direct people to or guide people to if they want to learn more about fall prevention?

- All right, so one of the resources that we also, as a company, we depend on our occupational therapists. Occupational therapists, they are great for advise. They are underutilized because most people will use physical therapists. But let's talk a little bit more about occupational therapists. You know, they give you advice. They can assess your home. They can assess the environment to identify hazards and suggest ways to improve. They can identify ways to keep your house, to make sure that you are keeping fit. They can improve that, between your home. They can tell you activities that you can do to keep safe. They can look at the lighting in your home, and then they can make suggestions and recommendations. At times, you need an expert. So that's one advice that I can give you. Get with your occupational therapist and see if they can help you assess that environment. The other thing is the YMCA within your local community, they are usually good places to look to, to find out what programs they might have available. They have exercise programs for seniors. So join the YMCA. See if you have one within your area. They're very, very helpful, okay? Your doctor's office might have programs that will help you find ways to stay safe within your home environment. And I would say the best resource is your family. Get together with your family members, have a fall prevention plan and make sure that you're removing all the hazards within your environment.

- And this is a great time of year to do it while the weather is still nice, pretty much all around the country, before it starts to get icy or cold and you start to spend more and more and more time indoors. You want to make sure that the indoors are ready to go on that end. So as we bring this back full circle, Gaylene, we promised people tips. We've given them great tips, but as a parting thought, the last thing that they will remember from this, if you have one tip to give somebody to implement today, what would that be?

- All right. So, we all have a tendency to put things off, especially when we are thinking about preventing a problem, right? That hasn't happened yet. So the fall hasn't happened. This can be a problem. So I challenge you to make it a point to at least change right now... Look at your environment. Assess for hazards, remove clatter, have good lighting, get grab bars if you have to, okay? So that you can prevent the fall from happening. Prevention is better than us curing it. So that's one thing I can leave with you. Assess your environment. Make the changes right now. Don't wait until something happens.

- Prevention is key. And that comes to almost everything in life, I think. Prevention is key. You know what? Excellent tips today. We promised our viewers that you would deliver and you certainly have, Gaylene. We thank you so much for the time, your expertise and sharing it with all of us today.

- No problem. Thank you so much and happy Fall Week and let's stay off the ground, okay?

- I love it. That puts a big old ribbon on this video here. I love it. Listen to Gaylene, everybody. Great tips there. And, hey, for all of you viewers who are watching, we appreciate you watching as we always say, and if you like this interview with Gaylene, you can find a lot more videos, just like this, over on our website. Head on over to www.seniorlivinglive.com. We have videos, we have podcasts, all about senior living, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We appreciate you being a part of this episode of Senior Living Live. Have a great day, everybody.

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