Falling is the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for elderly Americans. But aging doesn’t necessarily mean that your older loved ones have to fall. There are certain risk factors that you can look for that will help you know if your loved one is at risk for falling.
With a few preventative measures you can make sure that the older people in your life maintain their independence and safety as well as avoiding the enormous costs that accrue from a fall injury.
Danger – Any daily activity that requires shifting body weight from one side to the other, or that requires one side of the body to support more weight than the other becomes a fall risk if your loved one is struggling with their balance. Tasks such as walking upstairs, putting on shoes, or stepping in and out of a tub are all examples of weight shifting activities.
Plan – For any task that requires a shift in balance, a caregivers should be near-by to help stabilize the senior in the case of lost balance. This is one of the most common areas that seniors refuse to ask for help in and yet it’s one of the most vital. If you notice that your loved one is off balance but they refuse your help then you can offer the use of a cane or other stability device instead.
Danger - Depth perception and peripheral vision changes could mean that items can easily be overlooked and then tripped over. Poor depth perception can also make it difficult to reach out and grab something to help stabilize them and prevent a fall.
Plan – Caregivers can help my taking over driving, reading, and maneuvering around cluttered areas. Make sure that you are making regular appointments with an ophthalmologist to track any changes. There have been some amazing advances in eye surgery and treatments so it’s possible to regain adequate eyesight in many situations.
Danger – Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the most prevalent causes of cognitive impairment and has been linked to an increased risk of falling. This impairment can affect posture stability, and it can create balance issues. To make matters worse, each fall can accelerate the cognitive impairment.
Plan – Once your loved one’s dementia or Alzheimer’s has progressed to a certain point, they will no longer be self-sufficient. But that does not mean that they need to leave their home. A qualified caregiver can help your loved one remain safe from falls in their home.
Danger – Dizziness is an extremely common side effect of many medications and it can make even the steadiest and stable individuals vulnerable to falls. This is one of the most over-looked causes of falls, so be extra aware if your loved one’s doctor prescribes a new medication. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about common side effects of any medications and bear in mind that each person will react to a drug differently than then next. The way each medication interacts with other medications will have an effect as well so always be sure to tell the doctors about ALL of the other prescribed medications.
Plan – Take the first few doses of any new medications with a caregiver nearby. If you don’t have access to a caregiver make sure to try new medications either at bedtime or another time that movement can be kept at a minimum.
Danger – The older we get the more opportunities we have to acquire more stuff. All of these items laying around can present a hazardous nightmare. Rugs, bathtubs, and poorly lit areas are also common hazards.
Plan – Use your best judgement, but if it’s at all possible, de-cluttering a home needs to be a priority. Help your loved one to get rid of the things they don’t need or won’t use so that their floor space is kept clear. Hire someone to do some light housekeeping if necessary. Tape down the edges of rugs, add non-slip mats to bathtubs, and add safety lighting to illuminate dark floors.
Danger – The list of chronic health conditions is extensive and the complications and side effects associated with them is even longer. If your loved one is diagnosed with a chronic condition it’s very important for you to know how the specific condition could affect falls. Your doctor should be able to answer all of your questions as well as point you toward further reading materials.
Plan – It’s not really possible to build a comprehensive care plan for chronic conditions in general simply because there are too many. The best place to start is to help your loved one recognize that they are at risk of a fall, know all of the potential complications of their condition, and be willing to ask for help.
If your loved one suffers from one or more of these issues you should consider implementing a care plan. One out of every three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. But if you implement a few simple safety measures you can minimize the likelihood that it happens to your loved one.
We are here to answer any question that you might have and help you in any way that we can. We want you to be able to be Family First. Let us be the caregiver. Learn more about our Alaska home health services and how we can help your family.