5 Tips for Preventing Falls Among Elderly Loved Ones
Every year, 2.8 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 800,000 aging adults are hospitalized each year following a fall, most because of hip fractures or head injuries. Fall injuries cost an estimated $31 billion per year, with two-thirds of those costs coming from hospital-related bills.
These staggering and sobering statistics can be frightening for family members of aging adults, especially those far away from loved ones who still live alone. Falls can be attributed to several potential factors, including:
Balance & Gait: Balance and coordination begins to decline in many people as they age. For those who have a loss of muscle control or muscle tone due to illness, decreased mobility, or inactivity, the possibility of falling is increased.
Medications: New or increased dosages of medications can cause dizziness or other interactions that could lead to a fall.
Vision: Less light reaches the retina in older eyes, which makes contrasting edges, obstacles, or other hazards difficult to see.
Environment: Many seniors don’t realize their homes may present tripping hazards until a fall happens. Too many items in the way, loose carpeting, or other environmental hazards that weren’t a problem several years ago can prove dangerous now.
Illness: Many older adults suffer from a chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes. These conditions often require medications, or present with a loss of mobility or stability that can lead to a fall.
The good news is many of these falls are preventable, with some basic modifications. Here are 5 ways you can help prevent falls among elder family members:
- Remove hazards in the homeIf your loved one is going to be home alone, do a safety check of the environment. Make sure boxes, coffee tables, and other items are not blocking high-traffic areas. Check that electrical cords and power strips are tucked away or secured to walls and furniture. Fix any loose floorboards, and tack down the edges of area rugs with double-sided tape or slip-resistant liners. Install non-slip liners in showers and bathtubs. Keep all essential clothing, dishes, and personal care items within easy reach to avoid the need to stretch.
- Pay attention to how your loved one navigates in their environmentHolding onto walls, furniture, or another person when moving around an area can mean your family member is experiencing something that could impact his or her balance and stability. Another sign there might be a problem is if your loved one begins having difficulty sitting down in or rising from chairs. If you see these behaviors develop suddenly, or notice them for the first time, it may be time to seek evaluation by a physical therapist or primary care doctor to see if there’s a medical issue that can be corrected.
- Check the lightingAging eyesight makes it more difficult to see dangers under what would otherwise be deemed sufficient light. If your loved one is unable to see a hazard, he or she is more likely to trip and fall. To avoid this problem, keep flashlights and table lamps close at hand and install nightlights in all rooms and hallways. Consider switching out traditional light switches with illuminated switches or motion sensors.
- Ensure clothing fits properlyWith age or illness can come weight loss, leaving clothing loose-fitting. This is especially problematic for pants and skirts, which can drag on the ground and get caught beneath feet or on pieces of furniture. Help ensure your loved one’s safety by either purchasing properly fitting clothing or having too-big pieces altered to be safe.
- Install assistive devicesFor some older adults, canes or walkers may be recommended to help maintain balance. Other in-home modifications can be made to create a safer environment, including handrails or grab bars on stairs or near toilets and bathtubs. Raised toilet seats are easy to install and help decrease the risk of falling. Adding a plastic seat and non-slip mats to showers or tubs make bathing safer and more comfortable.
Though falls are a leading cause of injury among older populations, and it can be nerve-wrecking thinking about leaving your aging loved one at home alone, there are measures you can take to prevent falls. Following the 7 steps above helps maintain your peace of mind and preserves your loved one’s independence.
Let Advanced Home & Nursing Support Care for Your Loved one
The professionals at Advanced Nursing & Home Support have years of experience caring for older adults in their own homes. Contact us today to find a dedicated home care partner to help you or your loved one age in place with care.