According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. One in four older Americans experience a fall annually. At FirstLight®, our goal is to provide senior home care that makes your loved ones feel safe. Elderly fall prevention is just one way we care for your loved ones as if they were our own. Read on to learn more about fall prevention for seniors.
What Are The Dangers Of Seniors Falling?
Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence. They are a substantial medical risk that can result in hip fractures, cuts and sometimes life-threatening head and brain injuries. Oftentimes, a fall is so scary that seniors may avoid certain activities because they are worried that they’ll fall again. So, how important is senior fall prevention?
Elderly fall prevention can greatly improve the quality of life in our seniors. The data is startling. Sixty and Me, an online community of 500,000 women over 60, provided some very helpful information that explores basic statistics related to falls in older Americans. For example, “more than one in every three falls involving older adults either requires medical assistance, such as going to a regular doctor’s appointment or a trip to the emergency room, or results in activity limitations for a day or more.” Falls are too common. We need to work together to learn about fall prevention to keep our aging family and friends healthy.
If you are a family caregiver, the following quick guide to elderly fall prevention can help keep your aging loved one safe inside the place they call home and provide you with comfort and peace of mind.
Most Common Fall Risks For Elderly
- Carrying excessive amounts of weight.
- Having poor balance.
- Wearing impractical shoes.
- Having pathways in the home filled with clutter or objects.
- Standing up to dress or undress.
- Slipping in the shower or tub.
- Lighting is not bright enough in rooms.
- Having poor vision.
- Being on medication with side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness.
- Getting feet caught in wheelchair feet supports.
Senior Fall Prevention Strategies
Although falls are not a normal part of aging, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility and balance as we age. This can increase our potential to fall. Elderly fall prevention is the best way to counteract the negative effects of a fall before it happens. Here are some ways to help prevent falls in your elderly loved one.
The simplest way to promote fall prevention is to remove clutter from floors, hallways, staircases and sidewalks around your loved one’s home. Unnecessary clutter can be a tripping hazard. Plus, your loved one is at risk of losing their balance and falling when they bend down to pick up the clutter.
Fix trip hazards.
Walk through every room of the house and identify potential trip hazards. Fix, remove, or repair items such as loose carpets, throw rugs, uneven flooring, electrical cords or unnecessary furniture, as well as things like old newspapers and magazines that may be piled up. Patterned rugs, especially, can cause a tripping hazard because they affect depth perception.
Keep necessary items within reach.
Limiting overreaching can be a great form of fall prevention. The potential of falling is minimized by not placing anything on shelves that are too high or need to be reached using a chair or ladder. In their bedroom specifically, your loved one’s bed should be a comfortable height, stable and firm enough to get in and out of easily. A telephone and lamp should be reachable on the bedside table. Eyeglasses, canes and walkers should also be easily accessible.
Keep the bathroom safe.
Buying rubberized slip-resistant mats both inside and outside of the shower or tub helps prevent slipping. A raised toilet seat makes it easier and safer for someone who is weak or has balance problems.
Install grab bars and handrails.
Hire a handyman or have a family member install grab bars by toilets and bathtubs and handrails in stairways and hallways. Most seniors have lived in their homes for such a long time they may have never thought about making simple home modifications that could make aging in place a viable and safer option.
Install proper lighting.
Poor lighting is another hazard that can cause falls. Install brighter light bulbs in each room for everyday use. Add night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms for better guidance at night. Light switches should be accessible at room entrances and at the beginning of any dark area. Automatic touch lights that turn on when you touch the base of the lamp are helpful for those with arthritis or painful joints. Adapters are available to convert existing lamps into touch-sensitive lamps.
Encourage shoes, even in the home.
Preventing falls at home can be as simple as wearing sensible shoes. Socks might be more comfortable, but they can also be slippery. Encourage your loved one to wear shoes, even inside the house. Shoes should have low heels and good tread.
Make sure to keep shoelaces tied or Velcro firmly fastened. If your loved one chooses to wear slippers, they should have rubber soles and should not be worn outside.
Remember outdoor safety.
Step edges should be marked with reflective tape that is designed for outdoor use. Traction tape on stair treads will minimize the chance of falls when the stairs are wet. Using a contrasting color adhesive strip along the edge of the threshold will make it more visible. Leaves, moss, snow and ice can cause serious falls. Paths and sidewalks that are raised and cracked create a hazard.
Get a shower bench or chair for someone if they are unsteady on their feet. Balance can be easily thrown off by trying to carry heavy objects and having vision obscured.
Look into medication information.
Review all medications with your loved one’s the physician or pharmacist to see if there is an increased risk for falls. Some drugs that contribute to falls are diuretics, blood pressure medicine and medications given for psychological reasons.
Review walker and wheelchair safety.
When using a walker, both hands must be free to grasp the handles on either side. Avoid carrying heavy objects, which could cause a loss of balance or overload a wheelchair. Wheelchairs should be checked periodically to make sure they are in good working condition.
Urge your older adult to slow down.
Teaching aging adults that they are not as agile as they used to be is a helpful way to promote senior fall prevention. Many falls at home are caused by your elderly loved one moving too quickly while getting in or out of a seated position. Advise them to pause before sitting or standing to make sure they are steady before moving.
Emergency alarm systems provide peace of mind.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) provide emergency help at the press of a button, 24 hours a day. While not a form of fall prevention, if you are not able to have an actual person in the home with your loved one, these devices are an effective way to alert others of a fall. The response button is worn around the neck, on the belt or on the wrist of your loved one. These systems help alleviate the fear of being alone during an emergency such as a fall.
FirstLight Home Care – Senior Home Care Services
At FirstLight, our caregivers are taught to watch for possible fall hazards and to manage them before an accident happens. In addition to senior fall prevention and home safety checks, our team provides a variety of senior home care services to help you or your loved one stay safe and independent.
Call your local FirstLight® Home Care today to learn more about how we can help with elderly fall prevention for your loved one to be safe and happy at home.