Tips to Reduce Risk of Falls

Alzheimer’s and Falling: Tips to Reduce Risks

By Ava M. Stinnett

As our loved ones age, the risk of falling increases. This may be due to changes in vision or perception, difficulty with balance, or cognitive impairment. Side effects from certain medications and medical conditions can cause dizziness or lightheadedness when standing. People with Alzheimer’s are generally at greater risk of falling. In fact, some studies show that problems with balance, walking, and falling may be an early sign of dementia. Falls are dangerous in that there is not only the risk of serious injury but there can also be the fear of falling again and a loss of confidence, leading to decreased activity.

A study from the medical journal Age and Ageing found that people with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than those without the disease. If surgery and hospitalization are required, the resulting depression, disorientation, and disability may increase the chances that the person with Alzheimer’s can no longer be cared for at home.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent falls and allow your loved one to remain mobile and independent for as long as possible.

  • Daily exercise, such as walking in the neighborhood, at a local store, or on a treadmill to improve strength and balance
  • Regular eye exams to determine if cataracts, double vision, poorly fitting eyeglasses (or an old prescription), or changes to the visual field have occurred
  • Increasing light to achieve uniformity across spaces to minimize sudden changes in light levels, shadows or dark areas, and glare; using daylight where possible to help with depression or sleep disorders and improve general health
  • Maintaining good foot hygiene—examining the feet for cuts or bruises or long toenails—and wearing shoes that provide good support and have non-slip soles
  • Removing clutter, such as books, clothes, slippers, or other objects that someone could trip over, and making sure that rugs, loose carpets, or furniture aren’t posing a potential hazard
  • Installing grab bars or handrails where needed

Keep in mind that as Alzheimer’s progresses, it may be accompanied by poor judgment or decision-making skills. Your loved one may attempt to walk alone down the steps, walk outside when the sidewalks are slick from rain or snow, or try to get up from a chair or out of bed without help. Despite gentle and, perhaps, daily reminders, memory loss causes some people with dementia to continue trying to do things independently when it’s no longer safe to do so. Patience, understanding, and the implementation of safety measures are the best solutions for dealing with a challenging disease like Alzheimer’s.


Sleeping Giant Awakens

By John Stauffer

John Stauffer writes about the Sleeping Giant - the Boom GenerationIt is clear to me that the Boom Generation is a sleeping giant that is beginning to awaken…and it is cranky! For too long the needs of the families of the baby boomers have faced some daunting care circumstances. They are often faced with the care of aging/ailing parents and in some cases still raising children of their own – some with lifetime disabling conditions.  Organizations like ours dedicated to providing respite care across that very broad age spectrum are uniquely positioned to help, and also to feel the pain of an often-inadequate health and care system.

Each year I attend at least one industry-specific event. This year I attended NADSA the National Adult Day Services Association conference in Indianapolis. My trip was eventful for several reasons. First, and most important, was receiving the latest research aggregated in a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  The data shared in that report coupled with the changing trends in the health care industry had my head spinning.   Maybe that is why I had a fender-bender while going to the conference.  (Good news, no long term physical damage and the car was repaired in record time.)

I know you have heard the statistic about the number of boomers in America turning 65 each day (10,000!) and that fully one/third of them will need help to remain safely in their homes. But the stats that really got to me in this latest report were:

  • In 2017 50% of our population will be over the age of 50
  • Among seniors, better socialization reduces the incidence of stroke by 71%
  • Improved sleep reduces the incidence of stroke by 58%
  • Extreme loneliness is equal to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and reduces life expectancy by 8 years
  • 60% of those in long term care or senior assisted living facilities NEVER get a visitor

This tells me that the need for Adult Day programs is greater than ever.  Additionally, there was a law passed by the Feds in 2014 called the Impact Act which is fundamentally changing the way major health care organizations are operating.  The Impact Act relates to how Medicaid dollars are used. Prior to 2014 all of the Medicaid dollars were funneled to the large conglomerate health care providers which inspired many health organizations to create mega- operations with traditional hospital care, rehab care, adult day care all under one roof, effectively shutting out many smaller organizations like Helping Hands Respite Care.  Now large health care organizations must prove that those Medicaid dollars are being spread out.  The government is saying the Medicaid dollars are supposed to be used for the best care for the individual regardless of the size the organization.Comparison Chart showing cost and features for Adult Day programs versus Home Care, Assisted Living or Nursing Home

The Impact Act of 2014 further complicated things for major health care organizations by regulating the amount of dollars in the Medicaid “bucket” for an individual.  This has meant that hospitals are being financially penalized for repeat visits to the hospital or emergency room by the same patient. These limitations are forcing managed health care organizations to re-evaluate how to best utilize the Medicaid dollars and who to collaborate with to maximize the health outcome for individuals.

What does this mean for Adult Day Service programs like ours?  In Michigan, there are no licensing regulations for Adult Day programs, yet statistics support the statement that Adult Day programs offer the lowest cost and the highest value.

Now is the time for Adult Day programs to create viable partnerships with health care organizations and family medical practitioners.  The facts in the chart give some great reasons why!  It is conceivable that our organization could help save our hospital partners millions of dollars over time.

John Stauffer is the Executive Director of Helping Hands Respite Care in East Lansing, Michigan and is the current President of the Michigan Adult Day Services Association. He and several members of MADSA are working on a common language and reporting procedure to support the efficacy of Adult Day programs in Michigan.  Helping Hands Respite Care operates an Adult Day Services program with a positive track record for over 30 years. Originally established by a group of nurses, the program continues to have a staff nurse in attendance daily.


MSU Department Partners

MSU Department of Kinesiology Partners with Helping Hands Respite Care

Not long ago we had the privilege of presenting to the head of the MSU Department of Kinesiology and found that we were an ideal match to the students of this department wishing for relevant work opportunities in our various programs. Student are lining up for internships to provide first rate care to the families we serve.

At this point we have five new caregivers in our pipeline and expect that we will end up enjoying the benefits of a great working relationship with this university department to the tune of 8 to 10 students per school year or semester.

Over the past two years we have been so challenged to find, train and compensate caregivers and have been broken-hearted when we had to leave shifts open for lack of willing workers.  It might be too soon to say we have a permanent solution, but with some help and good luck we could see a substantial improvement in our staffing numbers.  If you know someone in any of the other relevant schools at MSU or even the local community colleges we would deeply appreciate the referral.  The areas of study which seem to match up really well include:  pre-med, nursing, kinesiology, family studies, gerontology, social work, and psychology.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday logo

Giving Tuesday – It is a Thing!

You may have heard about Giving Tuesday. This is the 5th year for this special day that defies the retail craziness which escalates beginning right after Thanksgiving with Black Friday and continues through Cyber Monday.  In 2012 Giving Tuesday was established as a counterpoint to the retail crush that comes with the Holiday season of gift giving.

Like many, you are searching for more ways to insert some sanity, thoughtfulness, and service back into their holidays.  Enter Giving Tuesday, right after Cyber Monday, to provide alternatives to spending on gifts that will soon be tossed aside or forgotten. Giving Tuesday is the day to remember the tireless and heartfelt work of our local nonprofits in our community.

On Giving Tuesday will you honor us by remembering Helping Hands Respite Care in your year-end giving plans, or make a pledge to invite your friends to attend one of our Walk Beyond the Barriers events, or plan on volunteering some of your precious time and talent to make our program services even better?  To learn more about Giving Tuesday opportunities at Helping Hands Respite Care contact