While circus clowns and comedians may stir audiences to laughter over such stunts as slipping on a banana peel, there is nothing funny about falling when it comes to the elderly, who are at an elevated risk for serious injuries which could bring about a lengthy rehabilitation process. Not only that, but there’s a lesser known complication that typically arises from a senior’s fall: a fear of falling again which can be extreme enough to impact quality of life and health.
As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.” It’s normal – and sensible – for an older adult who has fallen to want to take precautions in order to avoid a subsequent fall. However, for many, the fear of falling inhibits important physical activity, resulting in weakness and reduced balance confidence, each of which can actually enhance the threat of falling again.
Instead, it’s essential for seniors to:
- Strengthen muscles. Ask the physician and/or physical therapist for recommended exercises to engage in after a fall. Building strength is an essential component to minimizing the risk of future falls.
- Assess the home. Walk through the senior’s home to check for throw rugs, cords, clutter, etc. that may cause a tripping hazard. Make sure there is plenty of lighting and install grab bars in the bathroom or anywhere else supplemental support could be beneficial.
- Discuss it. Seniors may feel embarrassed for having fallen; nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to talk about what happened in order to know what preventative measures should be taken to make sure that it doesn’t occur again.
It’s also beneficial for older adults to establish goals, along with the help of a medical professional, and then work towards achieving them. The goals should be practical and relatively easy to attain however; for example, having the ability to walk up and down the stairs independently while holding the handrail in the next fourteen days, or walking the entire length of the backyard within four weeks.
Once a goal has been set, determine the steps required to accomplish that goal. What types of activities can help strengthen the muscles required to go up and down the stairs, or to take an extended walk? And if the goal is not achieved, figure out what obstacles exist and what further steps could be taken to set and reach a new goal.
Most importantly, be sure to provide reassurance and support to encourage an older adult to regain his or her self-assurance and confidence and to lessen anxiety.
For additional recommendations on preventing falls, to arrange for a free in-home safety assessment or to learn more about our Anchorage senior services and the areas we serve, contact Midnight Sun Home Care any time at (907) 677-7890. See our full service area.