I hear the stories all the time. They are difficult to imagine and are no doubt painful and frightening. They involve details such as “eight hours lying in a bathtub,” “waking up on the floor two hours later,” and “crashing into a shelf at the grocery store.”
These stories are from older adults who have fallen.
As I’ve mentioned before, my current job is in sales for a company that sells medical alert pendants. Every week I visit older adults in their homes and train them how to use their new pendant. Many are buying these because of a recent fall.
Often during these trainings one of the older adult children is present. They are worried. And they should be!
In an article by Dr Douglas P Kiehl, MD he discussed falls in the senior populatioin. It stated that “falls in older adults occur commonly and are major factors threatening their safety and independence. Significant morbidity and mortality may result from falls and they are the leading cause of injury, both fatal and nonfatal, among older adults.”
He went on to say, “compared with hospitalization due to other conditions, hospitalizations from falls resulting in hip fracture or other injuries lead to worse outcomes and a greater chance of nursing home admissions.”
The Top 5 Causes of Falls
As someone who is caring for an aging parent or loved one, you are wise to be aware of the risk factors. The top 5 causes of falls in and around the home can be:
- Impaired Vision
- Cataracts and glaucoma alter depth perception, peripheral vision, and glare
- Home Hazards
- Lack of grab bars
- Low lighting
- Loose rugs
- Uneven floors or sidewalks
- reduce mental alertness
- affect balance and gait
- cause drops in systolic blood pressure while standing
- mixing medications can increase these side effects
- Weakness, low balance
- Lack of lower body strength
- Lack of overall balance
- Lack of mobility
- Chronic Conditions
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Heart disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Diabetes and complications from diabetes
Although some of these are a natural part of aging, there are some things you can do to reduce these risks. Installing grab bars and handrails, removing clutter, improving lighting and encouraging mild to moderate strength building exercises are examples of ways to help.
Create a Checklist
As a caregiver, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of falls. Spending a little time around your loved one’s home clearing debris, clutter, and other household items can create an environment that’s safe and easy to navigate.
For help, download my checklist HERE to help with process!
Talk to your loved one about how to handle a fall.
If your parent or loved one is at risk for a fall they need to know how to get help in the event that they do go down. I found a great article from the Canadian Government’s website that could give you much needed guidance and talking points to cover. It also speaks to what to do if you witness a fall. It provides the following tips:
What to Do After a Fall… If You CAN Get Up
The first thing to do is to catch your breath. Check and see if you are injured. Even if you think you’re OK, take your time before getting up again.
Follow These Five Steps for Getting Up
- Lie on your side, bend the leg that is on top and lift yourself onto your elbows or hands.
- Pull yourself toward an armchair or other sturdy object, then kneel while placing both hands on the chair or object.
- Place your stronger leg in front, holding on to the chair or object.
- Stand up.
- Very carefully, turn and sit down.
Practice these steps often and be prepared in case you fall.
Most of all, stay calm.
If you feel any discomfort or are unable to get up, try to get help.
- Call out for help if you think you can be heard.
- If you have an emergency call device or telephone at hand, use it.
- If you don’t, try to slide yourself towards a telephone or a place where you will be heard.
- Make noise with your cane or another object to attract attention.
- Wait for help in the most comfortable position for you.
- If you can, place a pillow under your head and cover yourself with a piece of clothing or a blanket to stay warm.
- Try to move your joints to ease circulation and prevent stiffness.
What to Do After a Fall… If You Are the WITNESS
If you see someone fall, resist the urge to get the person up immediately. First check for condition: Is the person conscious or unconscious? Does the person appear to be injured? Reassure the person.
If the individual cannot get up, call for help and administer first aid if you are able to do so. Help the person find a comfortable position and keep him or her warm using an item of clothing or blanket.
If the individual appears able to get up, proceed with care and follow the steps below.
- Bring a chair close by; help the person turn onto the side and bend the upper leg; help the person into a semi-seated position.
- Placing yourself behind the person and getting a firm grip on the hips, help the person to a kneeling position with both hands on the chair.
- Holding on to the chair, the person should then place the stronger leg in front. You may help by guiding the person’s leg.
- With a firm grip on the hips, help the person to stand, then turn and sit on the chair.
When to See a Doctor
Whether you’re the victim or the witness of a fall, never underestimate its seriousness. Even if it appears no harm was done, there could be after-effects.
Here Are Some of the Reasons for Seeing a Doctor:
- loss of consciousness just before or after the fall
- a strong or lingering pain
- overall weakness or unsteadiness
- vision problems
Symptoms may appear in the days that follow a fall. If you fall, take note of your condition. If you witness a fall, take note of the person’s condition.
In some cases, a fall may be the sign of an illness, or it may be caused by medication. It’s always better to mention falls to your doctor. He or she can then assess the situation and see if the fall is linked to an illness, prescribed medication or over-the-counter drugs.
Should you get a medical alert pendant?
Medical alert pendants are a great option for someone who is at risk for falls, particularly if they live alone. In my post, Help at the push of a button: 6 things to know when choosing a medical alert pendant, you can read about features to inquire about when selecting the right pendant for your loved one.
Pendants are a simple, cost-effective option that can provide 24-hour help and safety. In times of emergency every second counts and a medical alert pendant can get help at the push of a button.
Take the time, make the changes
Falls are scary. Perhaps your parent has already experienced a fall and you already know what a game-changer it can be.
Weakness and lack of strength are a natural part of aging, however there are still many things that can be done to provide a safe, maneuverable environment to greatly reduce the risk of falls. Take the time, make the improvements and create a safer home for the ones you love.