How to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults
If you live with or care for an older adult, the approach of the fall season is a great mnemonic device to focus attention on a leading health threat for seniors—the risk of falls. In fact, according to the CDC, more than 1 in 4 older adults report falling each year and about 37% of falls results in injury.
At the Witherell, we often see a familiar pattern: an older adult falls at home and requires hospitalization. The injury may never fully heal and surgery may be prohibitive. At that point, a higher level of care, in the form of skilled nursing, is needed because the individual can no longer safely reside at home.
While we’re always here to provide exceptional care to older adults when they need it, we also want to keep the seniors in our community safe. So, with that in mind, we’re pleased to share these tips from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the CDC, and our own experts.
- Always be prepared to call for help.
NCOA and NFPA encourage seniors to invest in a personal emergency response system (PERS). A PERS device is different from a cell phone because it is worn at all times, often as a necklace or a bracelet. PERS systems can pair with a landline, but some operate wirelessly. This is preferred because people often won’t take a phone into the bathroom, or sometimes the phone might not be charged. So, make a wearable device a part of your loved one’s every day attire.
- Schedule a home safety check.
Some local fire departments offer home safety visits for seniors. The purpose is to make the home safer and free from hazards, and to ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, immediately outside bedrooms in a hallway, near kitchens, and on every level of the home. They also must be replaced every 10 years. Common safety hazards include rugs without non-slip backing, too many electrical devices plugged into one outlet, and too many items stored in hallways or on stairs. Be sure to install extra lighting, brighter bulbs, grab bars in showers and bathrooms, and handrails on staircases.
- Organize all health info.
In the event of a true emergency, it’s important to have a list handy of any medical conditions and medications taken by older adults who are living on their own. Keep this info in an easy-to-find place, like on the refrigerator. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy with you.
- Check in with a physician.
The CDC also recommends that older adults check in with their doctor or pharmacist to review medications that may cause dizziness or fatigue that can increase the risk of falling. Regular vision checks to update eyeglasses also prevent falls. And when it comes to footwear, ask your physician to advise on proper footwear and provide an exam to assess any foot, leg, or balance issues that may increase fall risk.
- Check in, respectfully.
While aging brings about physical and mental changes, a preference for independence often does not change. So, it’s important to respect the dignity of older adults while also giving them the support they need. If you notice a lot of clutter or hazards around the home, offer to help with cleaning and re-organization. Or, ask your loved one what type of help they’d most appreciate.