How to Prevent Falls Among the Elderly
SOME HELPFUL TIPS TO KEEP YOUR SENIOR LOVED ONE ON THEIR FEET:
The incidence of falls within the elderly population can be a daunting reality for many children and the affected elderly — when one considers the physical and psychological implications of falling, it’s no wonder.
According to Queensland Health, “falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for Queenslanders aged 65 years and over and the cost of falls and falls injury is significant.”
Common injuries sustained from a fall can be quite severe, risking hip fractures, broken bones, and even head trauma. Oftentimes a fall can leave your elderly loved one fearful and depressed, prompting them to retreat and therefore become less socially and physically active. Whether your family member is in aged care, respite care or home and community care, ensuring each and every precaution is taken will be of the utmost importance. And, if your senior loved one should fall, your support and ensuing prevention strategies could make all the difference.
Here are some helpful strategies you can implement to prevent a vulnerable senior from falling:
Cognitive Checks and Balances
“Be on the lookout for a decline in cognition such as difficulties with memory and loss of balance.”
As your aging parent grows older their cognitive health can degenerate — making them extremely susceptible to falling due to changes in their gait and balance, and delayed reflexes. Falls can be a particularly grave concern for families caring for loved ones with dementia and other chronic diseases.
Not only do cognitive impairments like dementia pose the risk of serious physical injuries — but it can also be unsettling for your loved one, who once enjoyed the ability to judge their surroundings, to take a fall.
Prevention is better than a recovery.
It’s important to remember the disease can progress. So prevent a fall and take your senior loved one for regular specialist check ups. Whether your aging family member lives independently or in an aged care community like Palm Lake Care (PLC), your understanding and awareness of the challenges they face will help to keep them safe. It may be that your loved one requires specialised full-time aged care if they are putting themselves at risk by living alone.
“Keep your elderly loved one moving with exercises to improve balance and strength.”
If you’re concerned about your aged relative or parent falling, it’s counter intuitive to suggest a sedentary lifestyle that’s indoor bound. Encourage your loved one to get out and about more often. Not only will exercise have a positive impact on their overall mood, but such activities can improve cognition and promote longevity.
It’s important for seniors to maintain good balance and stability by building strength in their muscles with physical activity. Consider your elderly loved one’s physical limitations and be sure to choose an appropriate activity or exercise for them to do.
If your loved one should fall, an intervention may be required to prevent a future occurrence. They may require an assistive device like a walking aid to improve confidence, and encourage physical activity and movement. An occupational therapist may help with environmental adaption.
“Ask your pharmacist or general practitioner about treatment and the side effects of some medications.”
This may come as a surprise, but some medication, be it prescribed or over-the-counter, is often the culprit of elderly falls. Many older people are unaware of the side effects their medication can trigger, so it’s a good idea to do some research on the medicines your loved one is being prescribed.
Drowsiness, dehydration and dizzy spells — as well as changes that occur in the brain — can significantly heighten the risk of a fall. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s treatment, you should review your treatment options with your pharmacist or general practitioner.
Avoid Osteoporosis and further severe injuries by ensuring the daily requirements of Vitamin D and Calcium are met. You should discuss this with your healthcare provider, as supplements may be necessary to maintain healthy bones in later years.
Have Regular Eye Checks
“Keep an eye on vision impairments and stay on top of your loved one’s eye health and prescription.”
Help your senior family member stay on their feet with regular vision and eye health checks. Their eyesight is so important in maintaining the balance required to safely navigate their surroundings and avoid any obstacles.
Pay your optometrist a visit and determine if your loved one is wearing the right glasses and is keeping them clean.
Your relative or parent may be prone to falling if their vision is impaired in some way — so it’s vital for you to ensure their prescription is stable, and have their vision corrected accordingly. With age, eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts can eventuate — therefore an annual eye examination is recommended, particularly among adults over the age of 50.
Avoid Clutter at All Costs
“Help your loved one understand how clutter is bad for their health, wellbeing and safety.”
Recognising and addressing cluttering, collecting and even hoarding behaviour can be a difficult issue to touch on when it comes to our loved ones. However, if your elderly family member is holding onto things with little or no value, it could come as a severe health hazard to them. Fall and injury prevention begins with a functional living space that’s easy to navigate.
First and foremost — address the root of the problem. Discuss the emotional connections to these possessions and rationalise with your senior parent or relative. Letting go can be extremely difficult for some, so it’s important to understand any feelings of guilt or obligation they might be experiencing.
Instead of throwing everything out, encourage your loved one to pass down family heirlooms to children, grandkids and other relatives. Grandparents often find joy and comfort in knowing their grandchildren will have something tangible to remember them by.
Modify the Living Environment
“Hazard-proofing the home will make all the difference when it comes to the risk of falling.”
After you’ve decluttered your loved one’s home or living environment, it’s time to take further safety measures like implementing ramps and other mobility aids. Handrails and grab bars in the bathroom are so important in preventing a slip — and you could even consider equipping your loved one with emergency alarm devices if they live independently.
Adequate lighting and non-slip mats can also play a significant role in fall prevention in older people. Be sure to check for loose rugs or carpet and repair or replace any damaged flooring.
PLC offer home services and low-level assisted care for those at risk of injury. There’s also the option of full-time aged care within a safe, accessible living environment with around-the-clock support and nursing.
Recovering from a fall
Should the worst happen, it’s important to remain strong and optimistic as your senior loved one works to regain their balance and confidence. Be aware — the rehabilitation process can be a long and arduous journey to recovery — but it’s important to visualise the light at the end of the tunnel and take the necessary steps to avoid a future fall.