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Editorial: Act to avoid falls, prevent rabies

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opinion Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
715-273-4335 customer support
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

As the year wanes, those who are in the twilight of their lives are reminded the statistics on falls among older Americans are staggering.

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The Centers for Disease Control says: falls are the number one cause of injuries, hospital visits and death among those 65 and older; one out of three seniors falls each year; in 2010, 2.3 million older adults were treated for fall-related injuries; and in ’10, the direct medical cost of falls was $30 billion.

In the interest of improving those numbers, Synergy Home Care offers the following advice:

—Safety at home. Paint or place bright tape on the edge of steps so seniors can see where one step ends and another begins. Provide handrails on both sides of stairs and grab bars in bathrooms. Provide light at the top and bottom of stairs, and throughout halls. Paint the bottom basement step white to make it more visible. Secure rugs to the floor to prevent tripping. Attach non-slip strips to the bottom of slippers. On the outside, check steps and walkways for loose bricks, cement or stone.

—Safe footwear. Fall prevention research has demonstrated wearing the right type of footwear can reduce the risk of a fall. Slippers may be comfortable and convenient, but they don’t provide proper support to the foot, often being loose fitting and easily slipping off.

—Reliable eyesight. Seniors should know their visual limitations and have their vision checked at least once a year. Consider getting a pair of eyeglasses with single vision distance lenses for activities such as walking outside.

—Medication. Many medications contribute to falling because they can cause drowsiness and dizziness as a side effect. Let health care providers know if a senior is experiencing either of these.

—Exercise. Simple chair exercises are a good and safe way to achieve increased strength and balance for those with limitations. Seniors can do ankle circles while watching TV, toe raises and heel raises while waiting for dinner.

—Nutrition. Although appetite decreases with age, the body still needs the nutrients food and fluids provide. Water is recommended for hydration over caffeinated drinks.

On the other end of the age spectrum, youngsters are especially vulnerable to dying from rabies. Around the world, 55,000 people of all ages die from this viral infection annually. The public should take steps to minimize potential exposure to the infection.

In Wisconsin, rabid bats are the leading cause of infections in humans. Those who have had any possibility of physical contact with a bat, even without a known bite, should have the animal safely captured and held until a public health official or a physician can be consulted. This way, a laboratory can determine if a bat is infected and whether the individuals exposed to it require rabies vaccinations.

In addition to avoiding contact with bats, experts recommend the following measure to minimize exposure to rabies:

—Vaccinate pet dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock against rabies. Because bats may be found indoors, even pets that don’t go outside should be vaccinated.

—Enforce leash laws and contact local humane associations if help is needed to shelter and find homes for stray dogs and cats.

—Stay away from all wild animals, especially those acting abnormally.

—Teach children not to approach any unfamiliar animals, even if they appear friendly.

—Don’t keep exotic or wild animals as pets.

—Keep screens in good repair and close any small opening bats could enter.

—If bats are living in parts of the home, consult with a wildlife control expert about having them removed. Autumn is an ideal time to bat-proof the home.

—Individuals traveling to developing countries where rabies is highly prevalent or who are at ongoing risk of possible rabies exposure, such as veterinarians and animal control officers, should ask their doctor about receiving pre-exposure rabies vaccinations.

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Pat Hunter
(715) 425-1561
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