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Age Where You Want To

My grandma was our rock, she was 90, she was strong-willed, and she was our glue.  She broke her hip but was determined to walk again and did so in six short weeks.  She cared for my 92 year old grandpa who had a number of strokes but still lived at home with her.  All that changed in the blink of an eye.

Their house started as a log cabin – one of the oldest in the town.  One day, climbing the basement stairs she had gone up and down every day for 70 years, she lost her balance and struck her head.  She had a head bleed.  They took her by medical helicopter and the hospital opened her skull to release deadly pressure.  Amazingly she bounced back from this injury too…although not so much that she could stay home and care for my grandpa.  That was just too much for her new normal. 

In the blink of an eye, two, pretty much self-sufficient, older adults left their beloved cabin with bark still visible on the support beams and moved to assisted living and eventually to a nursing home.  It’s a story so many of us know. A loved one who is “doing ok” or caring for their spouse and a fall occurs and it all changes…not for the better. 

Falls actually can be prevented. Strength and balance training, mindfulness (yes – that new age stuff), and some simple changes in your home can allow you to maintain your independence.  Use our website to find a class, find a resource, but do something to “age in place.”   This website was built to help you control your destiny, help us help you to “Age Where You Want To, Not Where You Have To.”

Yours in safety, 

Kathi Hegranes is the Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator at the Trauma Center at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah.  She is passionate about injury prevention and offering tools for loved ones and older adults to control their own destiny.  She has over 17 years of injury prevention experience and is personally practicing what she preaches. (You can do it too!)  She hopes to reach 90 and still be at home – happy and healthy.

Live the Dry Life: Incontinence Treatment in Fall Prevention

How often have we heard someone say (or maybe even say ourselves) “When I laugh I leak a little bit” or “I just wasn’t able to make it to the bathroom in time” or even “I woke up to go the bathroom 3 times last night”?   All of these describe urinary incontinence, and unfortunately it is very common.  The good news is, it’s treatable!

What is normal? The average adult of 65 years of age or older should only wake up to go the bathroom 0-1 times per night.  During the day 5-8 voids is considered normal.  And believe it or not, throughout the day there should not even be one drop of urine leakage.  If you are not falling within these ranges, it is likely that you have some type of urinary incontinence.

How does this relate to falls? The pelvic floor is one of our 4 “core” muscles.  If this muscle becomes weak or lacks coordination, incontinence is likely to occur.  In addition to incontinence, the lack of stability from this core muscle decreases our stability and ability to tolerate challenges in balance.  Additionally, when a person needs to get up multiple times a night to use the bathroom, they have an increased risk of falling due to drowsiness, darkness, and the rush to make it to the bathroom in time.

What can I do about this? The good news is that incontinence is a treatable condition with physical therapy.  You can seek out your local pelvic health physical therapist who will teach you how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and coordinate them with your other core muscles.  This will increase strength and stability as well as decrease your risk of falls and help you live the dry life!

Tori Popp, DPT is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health for Orthopedic & Spine Therapy of Appleton and Menasha. She is passionate about treating incontinence in all ages pediatrics through geriatrics as well as other orthopedic conditions.

How to Identify Intrinsic and Extrinsic Falls

I didn’t fall, I just slipped out of my chair… 

My feet stopped moving and the top part kept going…

I tried to turn around but my feet got tripped up…

Statements like these are very common when I talk to my patients with Parkinson’s disease about falls.  As an occupational therapist, I know that falls are a serious problem. They often result in changes of lifestyle. Individuals are often less confident leaving the house or they significantly reduce activity due to fear of falling.  Often falls are a contributing factor to a person needing to move from their home and of course falls can lead to injuries.  The causes of falls often fall into two different categories; intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic falls are caused by something going on inside the person.  How is your eyesight? Is it time for a checkup? Are you taking medication that may cause dizziness? Are your falls due to muscle weakness or pain? An appointment to a doctor or therapist can often address these problems.

Extrinsic factors include your environment. Are there throw rugs that will cause you to trip? What about obstacles in the walkway? Is the lighting sufficient for you to get to the bathroom during the night? Do stairways have handrails? Often there are quick fixes to these problems.

Of course, it is best to prevent falls before they happen. However, if a fall occurs it is important to think about the causes to prevent it from happening again.

Kris Greve, OTR at Rehab Arisces, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is certified in LSVT BIG, a treatment designed specifically for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Kris treats patients in assisted livings and in the comfort of their own home and enjoys watching them get better.

Hunting Season Safety

During hunting season, falls from tree stands are common and are correlated to a high rate of neurological injury. In fact, it’s estimated 1 out of 3 hunters will experience a fall resulting in serious injury. Improper use of tree stands, poor construction, using tree stands during non- day light hours, use of alcohol, and rifle recoil are just some factors that increase fall risks.  Using simple safety tips can greatly reduce the risks of injury.

  • Never hunt from a tree stand without the use of a full body harness
  • Always have three points of contact (2 hands and 1 foot, or 2 feet and 1 hand) while climbing in/out of the tree stand
  • Check condition of tree and proper conditions of stands regularly
  • Repair tree stands regularly
  • Use a strong and sturdy safety rope to attach to both harness and tree to prevent falls more than 12 inches
  • Do not alter equipment
  • Attend a hunter’s safety course
  • Never carry equipment while you climb, use a haul line instead
  • Avoid falling asleep in tree stands
  • Be sure to let family and friends know of your tree stand location
  • Bring a fully charged cell phone

Share with the hunters in your life, and take these steps to reduce your risk of injury!

Heather Gueller, BSN, RN is the Patient Educator at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin. She is detailed oriented with a passion for providing exceptional patient care. Heather has worked as a Surgical Department Charge Nurse, Neuro/Spine Lead Nurse, and Circulating Operating Room Nurse for 9 years at a Level II Trauma Hospital.

Perspective from Clinical to Community

As a nurse that works in an orthopedics unit, Sara has personally seen the negative consequences of fall-related injuries. The psychological impact due to the fear of falling and the loss of independence accompanies the physical pain of falling. Also of importance, Wisconsin has a higher fall mortality rate than the nation as a whole.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one-third adults of age 65 years or older suffer from a fall.
  • Over-2 million adults seek care in the emergency room as a result of fall-related injuries.
  • Multiple programs are available that improve muscle strength and balance which have been shown to help reduce falls with older adults in the community.
  • Participating in a fall reduction program may be associated with less severe fall-related injuries and in turn will reduce health care costs.



Nancy’s work in community outreach has shown her that falls are costly – both in dollars and in the loss of well-being for older people. Research has shown that even if a fall does not cause any injuries, it can cause a fear of falling or loss of confidence. This fear leads many older people to limit their activities. It may result in reduced mobility and loss of physical conditioning, further increasing the risk of falling. The threat of a fall can be a barrier to safely doing all the things older adults want to do both at home and in their community – volunteering, going to events, meeting with friends, going to family functions, exercising, shopping, home chores, and others.

Falls ARE preventable – DON’T WAIT until a fall injures more than your pride or the fear of falling prevents you from doing what you love! So, what can I do you ask? Find a Stepping On class offered in a community in Wisconsin near you!

Stepping On is a seven-week workshop using adult education to develop the knowledge and skills needed to help older adults prevent falls. Topics of focus include strength and balance exercises, medication management, home safety, footwear, vision, and mobility all play an important in fall prevention.

How does Stepping On Work?

  • Stepping On is a high-level, evidence-based program proven to reduce falls by 50{06237e1879926985d8d48a0cf3a3766f41735b30c0289b05a82a40b03fd22f7c} and build confidence in older people (Journal of Safety Research, 2/2015). These community-based, small-group workshops are facilitated by trained leaders and provide a safe and positive learning experience focused on improving balance and strength, vision, home and environmental safety, and a medication review.
  • The group meets once a week for 2 hrs for 7 consecutive weeks. Each week the group focuses on new topics that build on the topics discussed the week before to bring a multifaceted approach to prevent falls from every aspect of life! The exercises taught are the mainstay and are discussed and practiced each week.
  • Guest EXPERTS are invited throughout the 7 weeks to share their knowledge and expertise with the group and include a Physical Therapist (comes to 3 classes!), Vision Specialist, Pharmacist and Community Safety specialist

To locate a Stepping On class in YOUR community visit this website’s search option, visit https://wihealthyaging.org/workshops, or call your local Aging and Disability Resource Center!

Sara Clark, RN, BSN works as a nurse leader at Saint Elizabeth Hospital caring mainly for orthopedic and neurology patients. She is currently attending Saint Xavier University to obtain a masters of nursing degree in clinical nurse leadership. Sara has a passion for fall prevention and other hospital-based quality initiatives. In her free time, she enjoys camping with her husband and two small children.

Nancy Krueger is the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Aging and Disability Resource Center serving Calumet, Outagamie and Waupaca Counties. She has held this position for 10 years in November. She coordinates many Evidence-Based prevention programs including three fall prevention programs, Stepping On, Strong Bones and Tai Chi. In addition, she is also a Master Trainer for Stepping On nationwide and Strong Bones statewide. Nancy has a true passion for fall prevention!

The Thompson Center on Lourdes

The Thompson Center on Lourdes is a nonprofit community center based inside St. Bernadette School in Appleton, Wisconsin. Their motto is “Celebrating Life over 50.” When the Thompson Community Center on College Avenue closed in March 2016, St. Bernadette Parish offered to provide a space for these active older adults to continue their activities and avoid isolation. St. Bernadette’s Director of Parish Operations, Patty Eichhorst, The Knights of Columbus Council 12269, the Fox Valley Task Force, and the Civic League made the move happen. The Thompson Center on Lourdes began operation in April 2016, recently celebrating their one-year anniversary. Participants can watch The Center evolve and their dreams become reality with many new additions to come!

The Thompson Center on Lourdes provides many activities for people over 50. Some of their activities include many types of card games, bingo, painting, woodcarving, basket weaving, choir, Bible study, crochet and knitting, billiards, exercise classes and monthly Civic League potlucks. Some of their exercise classes are focused on balance. They offer Line Dancing, Boogie Dancing, Pickleball, Tai Chi classes through the ADRC, Stepping On fall prevention and Strong Bones classes also provided by the ADRC. The Center hosts several community dances each year, in addition to volunteer opportunities for keeping its participants socially and physically active. They recently began monthly foot care clinics which provide vital needs and information to participants, especially those with painful issues that affect their balance.

The address is: 2331 East Lourdes Drive, Appleton, WI 54915. Hours of operation: 8:30am-4:30pm Monday-Friday. www.thompsoncenteronlourdes.org

Operations Coordinator, Jenny Craanen is a graduate of St. Norbert College. She has been with The Thompson Center since April 2016 and ensures that schedules run smoothly. Jenny is a firm believer in the mission of The Thompson Center on Lourdes to empower adults and enrich their personal growth by promoting mental, physical, and emotional well-being. In addition to maintaining a welcoming environment for the community, she is committed to providing diverse options and experiences for active older adults to help them keep growing and learning.