by Cori Hilsgen
A Home and Safety Fair, hosted by the Central Minnesota Home Safety Coalition, will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at Whitney Senior Center, 1527 Northway Drive, St Cloud.
Various vendors who provide services to keep older adults safe in their homes will be available for questions. There will also be breakout sessions about topics of interest to seniors, including some which include the St. Cloud police department presenting on topics such as property safety and identity theft.
As people age in their homes, it’s important for older adults to evaluate their homes for risk of falling and other safety concerns. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.5 million older adults are treated annually in emergency rooms because of fall-related injuries. In the United States, an older adult dies from an unintentional fall and many more are injured every 20 minutes.
Minnesota is one of the states with the highest numbers of accidental deaths due to falls. The average cost of accidental falls is more than $35,000 each. Falls are a common reason why seniors often are moved to nursing homes.
Church of St. Joseph Catholic Church parish nurse Marjorie Henkemeyer, who is also trained to do home safety assessments, said the Oct. 21 Home and Safety Fair is an excellent event which features a variety of vendor resources and educational mini-sessions.
“When we think about home safety, we usually think about ‘trips, slips and broken bones,'” she said. “While trip and slip prevention is very important in home safety, other concerns include safe food handling, home security and safe medication management.”
The Central Minnesota Home Safety Coalition was created in 2009 to address home-safety issues, specifically for older adults who are experiencing injury due to falling in their homes. The coalition is made up of members from the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Central Minnesota Council on Aging, the Faith Community Nurse Association, St. Cloud Fire and Police Departments, St. Cloud Hospital and Whitney Senior Center.
About 50 percent of falls can be prevented through home-safety assessments, home modifications, regular strengthening exercises and medication management.
The coalition developed the Falls Prevention Program which provides free home-safety assessments to older adults throughout Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties.
For the assessment, two trained background-checked RSVP volunteers visit older adults in their homes to offer a non-judgmental, no pressure, fresh look at possible falling hazards in the home. When the assessment is completed, the volunteers recommend home modifications to help clients prevent accidental falls.
Common suggestions include installing night lights and grab bars and removing scatter rugs. If the older adult does not have the funds or ability necessary to make the changes, the Falls Prevention Program will try to work with the client to find other area resources for materials and installation.
RSVP volunteers serve more than 1,200 adults, ages 55 and older, at almost 200 service agencies throughout the three counties.
Anyone who is interested in a free home-safety assessment should contact the RSVP office at 320-255-7295.