Preventing Falls in Elderly or Recovering Loved Ones

TalkingAll of us are at risk when it comes to unexpected falls, but the risk increases if we have unsafe conditions in our homes, we’re walking outside on uneven surfaces, we’re taking medications that make us dizzy, or we’ve had surgery or another medical condition that increases the risk of falling. The elderly, especially those with dementia, Parkinson’s or another neurological disease, have additional risk factors that loved ones or other caregivers need to be aware of and try to eliminate.

 

Falls are the leading cause of injury for adults ages 65 years and older, according to the CDC. Over 14 million, or 1 in 4 older adults report falling every year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. Falls not only cause bruises or fractures, they cause people to fear falling again. That’s why many who have fallen decide to stay away from social and physical activities and even feel the need to shuffle when they walk rather than risk another fall.

Prevention Post Surgery

Often surgery that limits movement, even for a time, is followed by time spent in a rehab facility or physical therapy at home. The exercises taught and practiced are intended to speed recovery, give a healthy respect for falling hazards, and learn strategies to keep from falling in the future.

Because the ability to balance can decrease with age, it’s a good idea to keep doing the balance and mobility exercises one learns from PT, even after recovery. PT may be prescribed anytime safe mobility becomes an issue. It’s important for you or a loved one to do exercises that have a doctor’s approval and don’t increase the risk of falling.

In-Home Fall Risk Prevention

Most seniors fall when they are at home. It’s not possible to prevent all falls for ourselves or loved one, but here are five things we can do to remove at-home hazards and decrease the risk of falling.

  1. No loose rugs or other trip hazards on the floor
  2. Safety handles or railings on either side of stairs, either inside or leading to the house
  3. Grab bars by the toilet and in the shower
  4. Additional lighting in frequent pathways and the bathroom
  5. No obstructions in frequently traveled pathways

Additional Hazards to Consider

These hazards may only apply to some people and households, but if they aren’t a challenge you have in your home, you might still have to deal with them when you visit or care for someone else.

  1. A small household pet that gets underfoot
  2. Confusion caused by medication &/or dementia
  3. Walking barefoot or wearing shoes that don’t fit
  4. Worsening eyesight
  5. Coordination difficulties
  6. Slippery floors

Prevention through Awareness

Some falling risks we can warn our loved ones about, but they have to remember and be responsible for doing them include:

  1. Turning too quickly
  2. Standing up suddenly after sitting or lying down without holding on to something
  3. Forgetting to use a cane or walker
  4. Tripping over an oxygen cord or forgetting to use oxygen and becoming oxygen deprived
  5. Forgetting to eat and becoming weak or lightheaded
  6. Walking on uneven surfaces
  7. Not holding onto a railing when going downstairs

Reducing Falls at Night

Getting up at night to use the bathroom can be fall hazard, but there are safety precautions that can be taken to prevent nighttime falls:

  1. Make sure there is plenty of light on the way to the bathroom
  2. Put urinal by the side of the bed to reduce walking distance
  3. Lower the bed to enables feet to touch the floor when getting up
  4. Wear an emergency call button and call for help if someone else is in you home
  5. Keep fluid intake to a minimum after dinner
  6. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  7. Ask the doctor to evaluate possible causes of increased urination at night
  8. Ask the doctor to identify medications that increase fall risk

Maintaining Quality of Life

It only makes sense to try to prevent falls, whether the victim could be yourself, your elderly loved one, someone who is recovering from surgery, or someone who suffers from a debilitating illness. A fall that results in a broken bone can be very difficult for an elderly person to recover from. Unfortunately, some elderly patients who fall and are injured are not willing to put in the effort required to get their mobility back, and they give up on life. As caregivers and family members, removing hazards and encouraging other methods of prevention, such as exercising or regular vision screening, can help to ensure continued quality and length of life.

If you or your loved one lives alone and you are worried about fall risks, Dakota Home Care can help. Our experienced caregivers in BismarckFargoLincoln, and Mandan, are always happy to work with you to meet the care needs of whoever is at risk and for whatever reason. Call us with questions or to schedule a free, in-home evaluation: Mandan office, 701.663.5373; Fargo office, 877.691.0015.

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