Volunteers help clear pathways for seniors

Therapy assistant Lindsey Pyron helps Larry Harley get around his home.
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The older you get, the more likely you will fall.

Sometimes that means a broken hip, often, it means a trip to the hospital. It's often the trigger to a medical decline. The CDC says for older adults over the age of 65, falls are the leading cause of injury death. They are also the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in the United States.

Part of the prevention plan is to make sure patients return home to a home with minimal tripping hazards.

Larry Harley from the west side of Indianapolis, is anxious to get back home. The 88-year-old went to Zionsville Meadows for rehabilitation in August after getting a pacemaker. Now he goes to therapy daily to get stronger and maintain his balance.

"I'm learning to walk again. That is the main thing," Harley said.

The therapy staff says he is very motivated and will soon reach his goal.

"We are really excited to be doing the home evaluation," said Lindsey Pyron, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.

Harley is key to the home safety assessment. Staff from American Senior Communities take him to his house to see how he navigates in his own surroundings.

Brad Abbot is a COTA peer who helps Lindsey supervise Harley's transfers. They watch Harley use a walker to move from his motorized wheelchair to his recliner. They watch him make a transfer from the chair to his bed. They check the hallways to make sure they are wide and free of clutter. They praise Harley for the handles he had installed in his restroom.

The therapists encourage Harley to eliminate a throw rug in the kitchen which does not have a rubber backing to prevent skids. They also make sure his food is accessible and watch him retrieve a bottled water from the top shelf of the refrigerator.

"They taught me how to cook, how to do it safely, you know, which is difficult with oxygen. I use everything electric mainly," Harley said.

Although Harley is mostly in his wheelchair outside, the team also sweeps away dozens of acorns which have fallen on the sidewalk and driveway. They also pick up sticks that litter the walkway.

Harley will head home in a matter of weeks. He says perhaps the most challenging advice to follow is to focus on a mindset that will help minimize falls. First, Harley is encouraged to slow down. He also concedes that his skills and strength have changed.

"Sometimes I get up and I think I can walk and I can't, you know, and that is dangerous. I've fallen two times and I couldn't get up and I had to go to the hospital," Harley said.

It adds to medical costs and often complications.

"A lot of times when they fall, they don't always bounce back to where they were before," said Pyron.

Larry feels lucky and doesn't want to take another tumble.

"First time I fell, I got a big old knot on my head. It's common sense, don't try anything that you know you can't do. That is hard to do some times, I forget that I can't do things and I've got to stop myself and say way hold up you can't do that," Harley said.

CICOA recognizes the need for seniors to be safe at home and is organizing a community event on Saturday, September 21. Volunteers help clear pathways and add modifications like handrails.

You can learn more about the CICOA Safe at Home event by clicking on their website.