Q: On my last visit to my father-in-law’s home, I noticed he was having a bit of trouble getting up from his chair and was holding on to the walls as he walked. I am a little worried about him falling. How can I help address this?

LP

Answer: Your concern is understandable. Falls are one of the leading causes of injury among older adults. A fall can cause serious injury or even be life-threatening, especially for individuals over 70.

Risk factors that may help you determine whether a person is at an increased risk of falling include their having undergone a previous fall, experiencing numbness in their feet, having difficulty stepping up onto a curb or stair, or taking medications that can cause lightheadedness. Having trouble getting up out of a chair and holding on to walls or furniture while walking are definitely red flags and should be addressed.

The first step is to talk to your father-in-law. Starting a conversation about your concerns may feel uncomfortable — for both of you. Remember to be considerate of his feelings and to choose your words carefully. Try to be supportive by saying something like, “I am worried about you and want to help.” Tell him about the changes you have noticed and recommend a wellness checkup with his doctor. Offer to go along with him to the visit and pair the outing with a pleasant activity, such as lunch.

A wellness checkup could lead to a diagnosis for which there is a treatment that can remedy the cause of your father-in-law’s unsteady gait. It’s also possible that he is taking a prescription that is affecting his balance, or you may discover that a trip to the eye doctor is in order. If there has been a change in his vision, a new pair of eyeglasses might be incredibly helpful. Your father-in-law’s physician may also recommend some type of exercise that can help him improve his balance — like tai chi, for example. Physical therapy might be another of the doctor’s recommendations.

A walk-through of your father-in-law’s home would probably be valuable. Consider increasing the amount of lighting in the house and be certain that light switches are easily accessible for times when he gets up in the middle of the night. Two secure handrails for all sets of stairs and grab bars in the tub or shower and near the toilet would be good safety features to install if your father-in-law doesn’t already have them in his home. Also, make sure floors are kept free of clutter and remove small throw rugs if possible. Double-sided tape can be helpful in keeping necessary area rugs in place.

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is currently offering fall prevention screening events at YMCAs in Wilkesboro, Mocksville, and Yadkinville. Participants will be screened by WSSU faculty for fall risk and given recommendations on how to decrease identified risk factors. For more information, email aclfallsgrant@wssu.edu.

Q: My older sister and I are interested in getting out to hear some live music. SummerFest is something that’s been mentioned to me. What is it, and when does it happen?

DW

Answer: SummerFest provides a great opportunity for you and your sister to enjoy some live music. Music Carolina, formerly known as the Carolina Chamber Symphony Players, started in 1992 as a chamber orchestra, founded by conductor Robert Franz and a group of fellow musicians from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The organization began to focus on small ensemble performances in 2006 and two years later premiered the Music Carolina SummerFest. Since then, it has been held in Winston-Salem each August and this year is celebrating its 12th season.

Music Carolina has scheduled an array of musical offerings for Winston-Salem between the dates of Aug. 5 and Aug. 24, including collaborations with Piedmont Opera, Triad dancers, and concerts featuring the music of American composers Joplin and Sousa, piano masterpieces by Brahms and Schumann, and pop music hits of the 60s.

During these three weeks, performances will feature more than 50 area artists. In keeping with its mission “to present innovative and exciting music performances throughout Winston-Salem,” SummerFest will hold performances in a variety of local venues, including Salem College, Calvary Moravian Church, the Millennium Center, Hawthorne Inn, Bookmarks bookstore. There will even be a special performance in a historic private home.

By attending SummerFest, you and your sister can have the pleasure of listening to live music and at the same time support a local nonprofit and area artists. Check the Music Carolina website musiccarolina.org for more information.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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