Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injury for older Americans, and 1 in 3 senior citizens falls every year. Unfortunately, falls not only have physical consequences like broken bones and head injuries, they provoke a sense of fear and depression in the senior. After a fall, Love 2 Live senior in home caregivers work hard to re-build the client’s confidence again so they can remain active. Exercise and engagement with the community is critical to maintaining mood. The suggestions below help you reduce your senior loved one’s risk of falling.
Make the Heightened Risk Clear to Yourself and Your Family
Understanding the reasons behind falls helps seniors, their caretakers and loved ones absorb just why seniors are at risk. This population has many unique experiences and characteristics that make falling more probable. Number one for us at Love 2 Live Care Services is the client’s reluctance to use the cane or walker a doctor prescribes. This rejection of a tool that would keep them safe stems mainly from pride and habit. They do not want to be seen as the elderly person that needs help. Most aren’t in the habit of using these tools and so forget. Still others just see them as an annoyance. But that’s not the only underlying factor of falls.
Falls also occur because:
- balance, coordination, gait and flexibility diminish as we age;
- edges, textures and colors become harder to see as eyesight diminishes;
- the medications we take cause dizziness and disorientation
- chronic conditions like heart arrhythmias and arthritis reduce function and cause falls
- we don’t upgrade our homes to prevent falls as we age; we like our surroundings to stay familiar
Put two or three of these factors together and the risk multiplies. Only when seniors and their caregivers really grasp and accept the multiple factors that contribute to their likelihood of falling will they take practical, easy precautions to prevent it.
To bring more awareness to the risks and hazards of falls, eight years ago, the National Council on Aging created the Falls Prevention Awareness Day (#FPAD15 on Twitter). This year, the day will be observed on September 23, 2015—the first day of the fall season. We’re glad the NCOA has created this day, and some San Diego hospitals are providing free classes and screenings. For instance, Sharp Grossmont hospital is inviting all of its Sharp Grossmont Club 65 members to attend a free lecture and balance screening. Call your or our loved one’s hospital to see whether they’re offering anything. Other fall prevention information is listed through San Diego’s Aging and Independence Services.
Falls Prevention Awareness Day started with just 11 states participating. Eight years later, 48 states and the District of Columbia in 2014 had some events and some news coverage.
The Only Answer for Seniors at HIGH Risk for Falls
While we go into the less intrusive ways to reduce fall risk below, we want to discuss the best and often the only way to minimize fall risk for those who have already fallen and/or are prone to falls: the on-site senior caregiver.
An in home senior caregiver is there to get a senior used to walking with a cane or walker. The caregiver reminds the senior of the walking aid and helps him or her become comfortable with it. There are so many random reasons a senior can fall: a mixture of medications and lack of activity; moved furniture and arthritis pain. A dropped bag and confusion. The senior caregiver arrives ready to scan the room for hazards. If a dip in the carpet starts to get deeper or a tile gets broken, the caregiver can prompt the senior to call a repair person. Human eyes, ears and hands monitoring regularly for issues make the best fall prevention method we’ve found. This doesn’t require round the clock care, either. A few afternoons each week, two whole days each week help get the senior into hazard free environment (and maybe even exercising to improve muscle tone and balance).
Still, these tips, too, can help you lower your senior loved one’s risk of falls.
- Casually observe their balance and stability.
Do they hold onto furniture or run a hand along the wall while walking? Have you noticed them stumbling or weaving while standing?
- Talk honestly about what they’re doing to prevent a fall.
Explain the reasons about why they are in a high risk population.
- Did their healthcare team “fit” their cane or walker to them?
Does it fit? Aids that don’t fit can increase fall risk.
- Discuss their current medical issues and medications.
Ask if they notice any side effects from their medications. Ask whether they’ve experienced changes in their vision and hearing. Ask whether they feel comfortable with their current doctor.
- Discover whether they’re taking vitamins, sleep aids or herbals that could affect their balance.
Be particularly focused on anti-histamines, “night time” cold medications, and any pain killers with PM in the name.
- Ask them if you could go through the house together to look for potential hazards.
Consider increasing bulb wattage and presence of lamps in order to brighten the home. As mentioned above, a senior’s eyesight may not be as sharp as it once was. Consider grab bars in the bathroom and even shower or bath chairs. Look closely at area rugs as well as the division between a carpeted room and one with hardwood or tile.
- Talk about whether they’re taking or would like to take a balance or exercise class.
These classes help with muscle tone, balance and–even better–confidence! They’re social as well.
Love 2 Live Caregivers Provide the Caregivers to Put Fall Prevention Ideas into Place
No matter how complex the situation, our staff can help you determine how to help keep your senior loved one safe and healthy. All of our senior in home caregivers are very aware of how devastating a fall can be and how to prevent such crises. During our free, no-obligation in-home assessment, you explain the amount and style of care you need, as well as the senior loved one’s interests, hobbies and personality. Questions? Don’t hesitate to call us at 619-291-4663 today!