If you have an elderly loved one, chances are you’ve spent a lot of energy worrying about falls and their safety. And you should be. According to the National Council on Aging, one out of four Americans over the age of 65 experiences a fall every single year. Not only that, but falls are a leading cause of death among the elderly in America.
As our loved one’s age, there is so much for us to keep track of: medications, diets, health care. Falls should be high on this list as well. Falls can result in devastating consequences for many seniors and their families. Common fall-related injuries include broken bones, fractures, and head injuries. We need to do what we can to help prevent our loved ones from falling.
In today’s quick tip episode of All Home Care Matters, we’ll go over all you need to know about falls. We’ll talk about the most common causes of falls, how to prevent falls, and how to know if your loved one has fallen and is hiding it from you. We hope that by the end of this episode, you will feel confident in protecting the senior in your life from experiencing a fall.
There are many reasons that seniors experience falls at a higher rate than other parts of the population. A senior might fall due to problems with vision, or a decline in physical strength, or even a chronic disease, among other causes.
Seniors are more likely to have impaired vision, which can make it difficult to notice hazards, even if they’re in great health otherwise. If a senior cannot see well, they might not notice a wet floor, a stair, or a crack in the sidewalk. This can lead to an increased chance of falling down.
As seniors age, many face declines in their physical strength. It becomes more straining to exercise or engage in physical activity, so many older adults choose not to (or to exercise far less frequently). This results in weakening muscle strength, loss of balance, and reduced coordination. Simply put, it’s easier to fall down when your body is much weaker than it used to be.
Chronic diseases like arthritis, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease can also increase the likelihood of falling. Seniors will have a harder time keeping their balance, gripping onto railings or canes, and they will be all-around weaker. Further, it will be more difficult for a person with a chronic disease to respond to a fall or recover from one.
Believe it or not, medications are another common cause for falling in seniors. Common medication side-effects are dizziness, low blood pressure, and drowsiness – all of which can increase the likelihood of falling.
Other common causes are surgical procedures that leave a person’s body weaker or less mobile than they were before, environmental hazards like loose carpet or wet shower floors, and behavioral hazards like lifting heavy items or hiking on rough terrain.
These are just some of the causes of falling – but in reality, any of these and more can cause a person to suffer a fall. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to prevent a fall before it happens.
The best thing you can do to help prevent falls is to make your loved one’s home a safe place for them to be. Remove any tripping hazards like loose rugs, exposed wires, or loose floorboards.
Remove furniture that might be blocking a walkway, to ensure that there’s plenty of space to move around. You can also clean up clutter that is blocking pathways or making it harder to be mobile. This might include stacked newspapers, laundry piles, or even loose shoes. Be sure that walkways and staircases are free of clutter.
Make sure to install grab bars and handrails around the house – especially by the stairs and in the bathroom. A grab bar by the toilet can help a person sit up and down without falling down. A handrail in the shower and tub can do the same. Have a handyman install the bars to ensure that they are assembled safely.
Similarly, you can add nonslip mats to the kitchen and bathroom floors, as well as to the porches outside. This will protect your loved one from slipping and falling on wet ground.
Believe it or not, the way your loved one dresses can also help to prevent falls. Have your loved one wear shoes, even in the house, for extra traction. Make sure that they never walk on wood or tile floors in only socks. Have them avoid wearing any loose or too-long clothing that they might trip over.
In addition to environmental prevention, you can also prevent falls through physical prevention. If your loved one’s vision is impaired, make sure that they wear glasses so they can see better. Even if their vision is fine, make sure that they get it tested at least twice a year to make sure. If they are struggling with a chronic illness like Parkinson’s disease, a wheelchair might be safer than relying on their two feet to carry them around.
You can also make sure that your loved one is getting plenty of sleep and exercise. The stronger and more alert they are, the less likely they are to take a fall.
In addition, you can have them limit alcohol and drink more water to prevent feelings of dizziness or light-headedness. Alcohol can actually affect a person’s balance and reflexes, so it should be avoided altogether.
It’s important to note that many seniors do not tell anyone after they’ve experienced a fall. This means that a senior could live with an injury for a while without anyone even knowing – and that injury can get much worse.
There are many reasons a senior won’t share this information. They might be embarrassed, or afraid that they will lose some of their independence. Many seniors worry that they will be forced to move to a facility or won’t get to live on their own anymore. If a senior has dementia or a cognitive issue, they might have forgotten the fall altogether.
Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that you won’t always be told if a fall occurs. That’s why you need to be able to identify the signs of a fall – so you can step in and make sure your loved one gets the care they need.
When you see your loved one, always check for a sign of a fall. It might not be extremely obvious, so it’s important to be vigilant in your examination (without letting your loved one know that you are on the lookout).
Look for bruises and swelling – particularly on the hands or arms. Your loved one may have tried to brace themselves for the fall and bruised or injured their hands and arms. Similarly, if your loved one has a black eye or a bump on their head, this is a sign of a fall.
If your loved one is experiencing sudden cognitive difficulties – like a lack of awareness, taking longer to do things, or a struggle with comprehension – this could be a sign of a brain injury from a fall. Take your loved one to the hospital immediately.
There are also less obvious signs. If you notice that something is missing from the house, like a lamp or another object, this might mean your loved one has fallen. It’s possible that they tried to grab onto a lamp on the way down and broken it in the process.
If you notice any changes in your loved one and think they may have taken a fall, don’t wait to take them to the doctor. Injuries like sprains, concussions, or even brain bleeds can be subtle at first and lead to devastating consequences.
When we put in the steps to prevent falls, we can have a little more peace of mind that our loved one is safe and secure. Of course, there’s no 100% guaranteed way to prevent a fall, which is why it’s critical to understand the signs and symptoms of a fall-related injury. The more prepared you are, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one when necessary.
We want to thank you for joining us here at All Home Care Matters, All Home Care Matters is here for you and to help families as they navigate long-term care issues. Please visit us at allhomecarematters.com there is a private secure fillable form there where you can give us feedback, show ideas, or if you have questions. Every form is read and responded to. If you know someone is who could benefit from this episode and please make sure to share it with them.
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