Who hasn’t taken a fall sometime? Usually, it’s simply embarrassing, but a fall can be bone shattering or even worse. As we age, the risk of falling goes up — for a number of reasons.
Fall risks for older people
- Weak muscles, especially leg muscles
- Poor balance
- Slower reflexes
- Foot problems
- Wearing unsafe footwear, such as smooth-soled shoes or slippers
- Lack of feeling in the feet due to diabetes
- Poor eyesight
- Confusion, especially in an unfamiliar environment
- Low blood pressure that drops even further when getting up or bending over
- Medications, including over the counter, that cause dizziness or confusion
- Chronic health conditions
Consequences of falling
Just as the risk of falling can increase with age, so can the consequences.
Bob stepped off the scale in his bedroom and fell backwards, hitting his head on the doorjamb. He was taking a blood thinner at the time and ended up in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage. He survived, but had to spend several months in a rehab facility.
Jeanne bent down to pick up something and couldn’t get up again. She wasn’t hurt, but was quite shaken because it was at least 10 minutes before someone found her on the floor and helped her up.
Mary slipped on a scatter rug and fractured her hip. She had hip replacement surgery and spent several weeks in a rehab facility. She was lucky. Some elderly people never recover from a broken hip.
Al lost his balance and fell against a piece of furniture, cracking one of his ribs. He already suffered with chronic pain because of an illness. The additional pain caused by his broken rib was unbearable and led to a rapid decline in his overall health.
Most falls happen at home.
More than half of all falls occur at home when people are going about their normal daily activities. Sometimes falling has nothing to do with age or health status, but happens because the living environment isn’t safe.
What can make a home unsafe?
- Poor lighting
- Slippery floors
- Loose rugs
- No stair railings
- Uneven floor surfaces
- Clutter, anywhere, not just on stairs
- Electrical, computer or phone cords
- Pets underfoot and/or their food dishes
- Everyday items stored in “too-high” places
- No grab bars in strategic places, such as the bathroom
What you can do to make the home safer
- Remove anything that someone could trip over, including clutter, furniture, electrical cords and raised doorway thresholds
- Remove, repair or secure rugs or carpet that could cause someone to slip
- Install sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs
- Install grab bars in the bath and/or shower, next to the toilet and next to the bed
- Put non-slip strips on the bottom of the tub and/or shower
- Use a shower chair or bench
- Install a raised toilet seat
- Clean up spills immediately and if floors are waxed, use a nonskid wax
- Make sure there is adequate lighting in every room, in stairways, on porches and outside walkways
- Have a lamp within easy reach of the bed
- Store flashlight with working batteries in strategic places
- Use night lights, especially in the bathroom, bedroom, hallways and kitchen
- Use a reaching device to get items that can’t easily be reached
- Get rid of any shoes or slippers without nonskid soles
- Spread sand or salt on snowy/icy surfaces
In some cases, it’s helpful to have a physical or occupational therapist do an in-home assessment to see if there are any safety hazards and make recommendations. Recommendations may include physical therapy or exercises to help improve strength and balance. Check with your health care provider about getting a referral.
The Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging offers an 8-week fall prevention class called a Matter of Balance. Get information about the class on the SMAAA website or call 1-800-427-7411.
It’s important for caregivers to participate in learning how to prevent falls as well. Safety is always a primary focus at Advantage Home Care, particularly so when our caregivers are providing personal care.
Personal Care Services at Advantage Home Care
- Medication reminders
- Bathing/dressing/grooming/oral care
- Assistance to bathroom
- Skin care
- Assisting with mobility & exercise programs
- Meal preparation, feeding
- Assistance with lifting, transferring, positioning
- Respite for family members
- Supervision/care in the hospital & facilities
If you’d like to learn more about all the services Advantage Home Care offers or would like a copy of our brochure on preventing falls, give us a call at 207-699-2570.
What changes have you made in your home to prevent falls?