The Lunch and Learn series is presented by the Area Agency on Aging
for Lincolnland, a Springfield nonprofit organization that covers 12
counties in central Illinois. The agency's mandate is to provide
information of special interest to the elderly population about
transportation, nutrition, legal services and home health care as
well as many other topics.
As Debbie Deopere, the agency's
community services specialist, stressed: "We encourage the
continuing independence of the aging community with educational
services, thus empowering people to make informed decisions about
The lunch time seminar was aimed at informal caregivers -- those
unpaid family members, friends, or neighbors who volunteer to assist
a person over age 60 who may need occasional help. People who are
also included as informal caregivers are family members over age 60
who care for a relative's children from infancy to age 18.
Tuesday's focus for informal caregivers was entitled "Minimizing
the Risk of Falls in the Home by Implementing Simple Changes."
Barbara Greenwood of VRI made the presentation. VRI is a company
that markets products designed to enhance the lives of older
community members, primarily products that increase safety in the
"Thirty percent of people over 65 have a fall, and falls are the
greatest contributor to death over age 65," said Greenwood. She also
stated that 40 percent of nursing home admissions are due to falls.
Greenwood ticked off the six most common culprits that are
responsible for falls in the home.
The first two are balance problems followed by mobility issues.
As we age, our balance can become compromised, leading to increased
risk of falls. Mobility is increased for many with the use of canes
and walkers. Greenwood said that these support items need to be used
at all times, even when walking a short distance in the home.
Next, the use of multiple medications may cause drowsiness or
dizziness if they are not taken correctly, meaning the correct dose
and at the proper time each day. Low blood pressure that causes
lightheadedness or dizziness is the next concern that may lead to
As we age, many of the senses we take for granted, such as good
eyesight and hearing, may be less acute. "We all need regular eye
exams," Greenwood said. It is especially important that grandkids'
toys, throw rugs and pets moving about in the home can be seen and
that small objects that can cause a trip are picked up.
The last area of emphasis is home hazards. Throw rugs and
electrical cords can cause trips and falls. It is important that
rugs have safety backing. "Proper lighting in every room is
extremely important," she said.
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Greenwood said that 50 percent of people who fall cannot get up.
That is where her company comes into play. VRI and many other
similar companies supply medical alert transmitters, fall detectors
and medication machines that dispense proper medication amounts at
the correct intervals. All of these aids are linked electronically
to a central hub with 24-hour monitoring.
Falls are serious, especially for those who cannot get up. Even
in a time period as short at 30 to 60 minutes, muscle damage can
occur, as well as dehydration. That is why immediate detection and
assistance are vital for recovery.
Approximately 10 informal caregivers attended the luncheon.
Alta Gehrke of Lincoln has been caring for her daughter Diane all
of Diana's life. "It is a difficult experience for my husband and
me," she said.
Another audience member, Mary Fuller, has had experience caring
for several of her relatives for many years. "This has been an
informative lecture," she said.
The Area Agency on Aging provides many Lunch and Learn sessions
at the Oasis throughout the year. Contact the Oasis at 217-732-6132
or the Area Agency on Aging for a list of upcoming events.
"We schedule the Lunch and Learn over the noon hour because many
of the people who use our services and information are still
working, and this is the most convenient time for them to attend,"
She stressed that there are many pieces of literature at the
Oasis concerning the services that the Area Agency on Aging for
Lincolnland provides. The agency is located at 3100 Montvale Drive
in Springfield. They can be reached for further information by
telephone at 217-787-9234 or 800-252-2918, or visit
[By CURT FOX]