Groups hope toolkit will help prevent falls by elderly people

03/01/2014 10:38 AM

03/02/2014 8:01 AM

In an age when seemingly everything is high-tech and directed at the Internet, a group of Kansans believe an old-fashioned approach will work better in addressing one health problem.

That problem is falls by elderly people, especially those in rural Kansas. The approach is called the Falling Less in Kansas Toolkit.

“We tried to create something low-tech and useful for people in small towns and rural Kansas,” said Teresa Radebaugh, director of the Regional Institute on Aging at Wichita State University.

LaDonna Hale, another collaborator on the toolkit, explained it this way: “What can somebody do if they’re just in their hometown, and their doctor is far way and there’s no exercise center?”

The toolkit isn’t totally old school. There is a version that can be downloaded for free from the Internet. But the goal is to distribute plenty of printed copies of the spiral-bound 56-page toolkit. Copies can be ordered for $10 each from the EnvisionEveryday store, and they also have been placed in every public library in Kansas.

The toolkit starts with a section people can use to assess their risk for falls, then helps them develop a plan for avoiding that. There are chapters devoted to exercises that improve balance, reviewing medication use, increasing home safety and identifying vision problems.

“It’s a basically a compilation of evidence-based information that people can use to reduce their risks of falling,” Radebaugh said.

Research has shown that a multi-component approach is most useful in reducing falls, she said.

The toolkit was developed by Radebaugh’s institute working with the Envision Low Vision Rehabilitation Center and the Harvey County Department on Aging, helped by funding from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.

The toolkit is designed so that it can be used alone, although its developers encourage the participation of adult children or medical professionals.

Hale, who’s a pharmacist, has given the toolkit to several of her elderly relatives with what she admits are mixed results.

“I gave it my mother and she was sort of ‘Hey, what’s this? I just turned 65.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, it’s a good thing. You want to stay healthy, you want to stay in your home.’”

Hale said her mother finally showed some interest in the toolkit when her grandchildren picked it up and started looking it over.

An uncle who has experienced a fall “took it more seriously,” Hale said.

“He said ‘This looks good.’ I think it depends on where you’re at, and if it’s hitting you when you’re ready for a change, and you think it relates to you.”

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