Little is scarier to a family caregiver of a senior loved one than to watch them fall and feeling helpless.
Rushing to their side and hoping they are not injured is all we can do in the moment.
The numbers of seniors who fall every day is quite astounding. Actually, 1 in 4 people over 65 fall each year.
Falls for older adults can mean injury (such as bone fractures or traumatic brain injury), hospitalization, or even death.
Shockingly, every 20 minutes a senior dies from a fall. That MUST be unacceptable to us!
A real threat to being able to age in place as our seniors age is falling.
Causes of Falls
Older adults are at risk for falling anyplace and anytime. However, there are proven ways to reduce falls.
There are several preventable causes of falls, including physical and environmental factors that are present for most all aging adults.
Changes in our seniors’ bodies as they age can lead to falls.
- Impaired vision and hearing
- Declining physical health and chronic disease
- Slower reflexes
- Loss of sensation in feet
- Physical pain
- Dropping blood pressure especially when getting up or changing position (hypotension)
- Dehydration (leading to confusion)
- Medication usage – taking more than four medications increases risk. Changing medication – new drugs, increasing or decreasing doses can put seniors at jeopardy.
- Declining muscle strength and balance can increase the potential for falling
The environment in which they live only adds to the danger when obstacles that cause falls are put in our senior’s path.
- Inadequate lighting
- Too much furniture
- Electric cords
- Throw rugs
- Slippery flooring
- Spills or wet spots
- Small pets and their toys
Quick Tips To Reduce Home Hazards to Defeat Falls
No particular action can guarantee that your senior won’t fall.
However, everything you do to overcome dangers — physical and environmental — will reduce the likelihood of falls and the injuries that can result.
- Remove clutter and throw rugs (or tape them down securely)
- Install adequate lighting, including motion activated lights, nightlights
- Install grab bars
- Put handrails on both sides of stairs in home and porches
- Complete home repairs, especially uneven flooring, wobbly railings, or broken walkways
- Place everyday items in their reach, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
- Clean spills immediately, repair any leaks that result in wet floors
- Remove ladders and step stools
- Wear shoes, non-skid socks, or slippers in house
- Move electrical cords out of walkways and any place they could get under foot
- Get your senior’s vision and hearing checked and encourage use of adaptive aids
- Encourage adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration and related confusion
- Monitor medication administration for safety, throw away all expired and unneeded medicines
- Help them participate in balance training exercises
- Set up an exercise plan that incorporates activities they love, weight bearing activity, and core strength building
- Help them eat well to maintain strong bones and muscles
- Remind them to use any assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, and ensure they are using them correctly
- Encourage them to get enough sleep at night
- Reminders and, potentially, more presence by others, especially during times of the day when at greater risk
Family caregivers can be helped to keep their seniors safer in their homes by using technology. There are many devices, including home monitoring, fall mats, medication reminders, home alerts, water temperature alerts to prevent scalding, automatic shutoff devices for stoves, and other devices that can sync with your smartphone to give you more peace of mind. More are on the way, too.
Some are specifically designed to help prevent falls and others are to keep them safe when completing tasks independently at home.
All types can make every day tasks easier, reduce fatigue, and limit seniors from situations that could leave to falls.
If your senior does have a fall, be careful assisting them up so that you don’t compound any injury. Check out our video on how to properly get a senior up after a fall.
While you can’t prevent every fall, you can be proactive in reducing and hopefully defeating falls!