Families who have older loved ones should realize that with aging come physical and health challenges. These physical and health challenges put their senior ones at risk of falls. Falls can result in broken bones, head injuries, hip fractures and other serious injuries. Even when a major injury is not sustained, an older loved one can become terrified and anxious from a previous fall, which makes it difficult for them to stay active, and slip further down a downward spiral of other health complications.
It therefore goes without saying that, families and individuals who have aging parents, grandparents and relations should help them reduce their risk of falling, and support them to stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
The interesting thing about falls is that most can be prevented. It is just a matter of being very observant and knowing where to look. Some common factors that can lead to a fall include the following:
(1) Balance and Gait: Aging comes with musculoskeletal degenerative changes that comes with gradual loss of coordination, strength, flexibility and balance, which makes it easier to fall.
(2) Medications: Quite a number of seniors are on prescriptions and over the counter medications that have side effects, such as dizziness, dehydration and tiredness which may increase their risk of falling.
(3) Sensory challenges: Eye and ear disorders are quite common in the elderly and may increase their risk of falls.
(4) Environmental factors: As people age, they need to make adjustments to their homes to remove potential hazards that can result in falls. Modifications can be made to the furniture, in the kitchen, floors, bathrooms etc
(5) Health condition: A high percentage of older adults (more than 80%) are living with at least one chronic condition such as Stroke, Diabetes, Arthritis etc. These conditions can increase the risk of falling because they can result in inactivity, functional decline, pain, multiple medications and depression.
The following steps can be taken to help your seniors to reduce their risk of a fall:
(1) Schedule an appointment with a doctor: This will involve a comprehensive discussion of their current health status, challenges in managing their health, medications and compliance, side effects of medications. Evaluation of muscle strength, balance and gait (walking style) should be done as well. Find out about their last eye checkup, visual challenges, if they are wearing glasses, find out if it’s a current prescription and it’s addressing the visual challenges. Encourage the senior to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns.
(2) Exercise, exercise, exercise!!!! Physical activity and exercises can help to address problems of functional decline, muscle weakness, balance and coordination. The doctor can make a referral to a physiotherapist, who will come up with a customized exercise program to help address the areas of needs. Exercises should begin with stretches and should include balance and strength exercises, core exercises, cardio and low impact exercises such as walking. These activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
(3) Encourage senior ones to wear sensible shoes: Wearing appropriate footwear is an integral part of a fall-prevention plan. Floppy slippers, high heels, shoes with worn out soles etc increase the likelihood of a slip, stumble or fall. Consider wearing properly fitting sturdy shoes with soles that provide good traction or grip on the floor.
(4) Remove home hazards: A comprehensive check of the entire home environment for potential hazards which may increase the likelihood of falls should be looked at, to make the home safer. The flooring, furniture arrangement, kitchen and bathroom ergonomics etc should be carefully laid out.
(5) Appropriate lighting: Ensure the home is brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Lightening should be increased at the top and bottom of stairs. Night lamps should be placed at the bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Lamp in the bedroom should be within reach of the bed, when getting up in the middle of the night. Flashlights and torch lights should be kept in easy-to -find places in case of power outages.
(6) Assistive devices: The doctor, physiotherapist or occupational therapist may recommend using a cane, walking stick or a Zimmer frame to help your elderly loved ones to be steadier on their feet. Other assistive devices can be beneficial too, such as raised toilet seats, grab bars in the bathroom, nonslip mats, and sturdy plastic seat for the shower/tub including a hand held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting.
It is important for families to involve health care providers and relevant professionals, to help them come up with realistic fall-prevention strategies. For more ideas on how to prevent falls in the home and make it safer for our elderly loved ones, please contact Rockgarden Homecare Agency.