According to the CDC, one out of three seniors will fall this year. Even more alarming is the fact that less than half will tell their doctors about the fall incident. With falls being the leading cause of death from injury amongst those aged 65 and older, it’s important to take preventative steps and address this issue with your loved one head-on. Here are a few suggestions on how you can do this.
1. Make an appointment
First things first – schedule an appointment with your senior’s doctor. Getting a clear assessment of their physical health is crucial in identifying not only any medical conditions that could contribute to a fall but also the environmental factors that could increase their risk of injury. For example, poor vision may mean not only getting a regular eye exam but also ensuring your loved one’s home has adequately lighting. Or perhaps a combination of medications are causing frequent dizziness and the use of a cane or installation handrails in the house would be beneficial. Come prepared to ask lots of questions.
2. Get active
Even if not seriously injured, many people who fall once fear they’ll fall again. As a result, some decide to decrease their physical activity or stop it all together. Unfortunately, low physical activity weakens muscles and actually increases the chances of another fall. With your doctor’s approval, implement a regular exercise routine. Whether that means frequent walks around the block, a weekly tai chi or water class, or simply getting out in the garden every day. Being active improves balance and flexibility, both which are key to preventing a fall.
3. Address the home
If you haven’t already taken steps to make the home safer for your loved one, removing fall hot spots is a great place to start. Begin by eliminating hazards, such as loose carpeting/throw rugs, electrical cords, and unnecessary clutter in pathways. You can provide balance support by adding grip handles to hallways and restrooms. Every senior and every home is different, so conduct an assessment of the home and identify what changes will be most beneficial for your loved one.
Preventing a fall can be as simple as changing one’s shoes. Experts suggest considering the environment before deciding what shoes to wear. For example, shoes with bulky rubber soles can be hazardous when walking on carpet, while some athletic footwear, which may provide traction in a gym environment, can be severely slippery on damp or wet surfaces. And those rubber slippers we locals love to wear – consider replacing those with a great walking shoe (without heavy soles or rubber over the toes) for an all-around footwear choice.
5. Live on one level
If your loved one lives in a multi-level home, guardrails may not be enough to eliminate the fall hazard that stairs present. If the home permits, have your love one live on one level. For example, moving the bedroom from the second floor to the first floor office space could be a viable option. If not, find ways to limit the number of trips your loved one takes up and down the stairs every day.