Nothing is scarier to a caregiver of a loved one than to watch them fall and feeling helpless. Rushing to their side and hoping they are not injured is all we can do in the moment. 1 in 4 people over 65 falls each year. Falls for older adults means more injury (such as bone fractures or traumatic brain injury), hospitalization, or even death. Shockingly, every 20 minutes someone over 65 dies from a fall. A real threat to being able to age in place as our loved ones age is falling.
Causes of Falls
Older adults are at risk for falling anyplace and anytime. However, there are proven ways to reduce falls. There are several preventable causes of falls, including physical and environmental factors that are present for most all aging adults. Changes in our loved ones’ bodies as they age can lead to falls.
- Impaired vision and hearing
- Declining physical health and chronic disease
- Slower reflexes
- Loss of sensation in feet
- Physical pain
- Dropping blood pressure when getting up (hypotension)
- Dehydration (often leading to confusion)
- Medication – taking more than four medications increases your loved one’s risk; changing medication can also be a risk.
- Declining muscle strength and balance
There are also many environmental culprits adding to the risk falls.
- Inadequate lighting
- Too much furniture
- Electric Cords
- Throw Rugs
- Slippery flooring
- Spills or wet spots
- Small pets and their toys
Reducing Hazards to Defeat Falls
There is no particular action that can guarantee your loved one won’t fall. As a caregiver, everything you do to overcome dangers – physical and environmental – will reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries that can result.
- Remove clutter and tape down throw rugs
- Install adequate lighting, including motion activated lights and nightlights
- Install grab bars
- Put handrails on both sides of stairs in the home and on porches
- Complete home repairs, especially uneven flooring, wobbly railings, or broken walkways
- Place everyday items within reach, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
- Clean spills immediately, repair any leaks that result in wet floors
- Remove ladders and step stools
- Wear shoes, non-skid socks, or slippers in the house
- Move electrical cords out of the walkways and any place they could get in the way of your loved one
- Get your loved one’s vision and hearing checked and encourage the use of adaptive aids
- Encourage fluid intake to prevent dehydrated or related confusion
- Monitor medication administration for safety, throw away all expired or unneeded medicines
- Help them participate in balance training exercises
- Set up an exercise plan that incorporates activities they love
- Help them eat well to maintain strong bones and muscles
- Remind them to use any assistive devices (e.g., canes or walkers)
- Encourage them to get enough sleep at night
Family caregivers can be helped to keep their loved one safer in their homes by using technology too. There are many devices such as home monitoring, fall mats, medication reminders, automatic shutoff for stoves, and other automated tasks that can be controlled and synced with your smartphone. Some are specifically designed to help prevent falls and others are to keep them safe when completing tasks independently.
While you can’t prevent every fall, you can be proactive in reducing and hopefully defeating falls. For more information on how to help your loved on strengthening their core, legs, and develop an exercise plan – be sure their health plan offers gym memberships! Give us a call to a no-obligation, no-cost review at 866-466-9118 now.