Because falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the elderly, it is crucial that steps are taken to prevent both falls and the health issues that could lead to a fall. It’s also estimated that close to three million people, aged 65 and older, are treated in the emergency room for falls annually.
Death rates from falls in the elderly rose more than 55% between 1993 and 2003 and that could be because people are living longer, living alone, and are more frail, all factors which increase the likelihood of falls. One of the main reasons cited for admission into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because of a fall.
As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remain cognizant of the most common reasons the elderly suffer a fall, they are:
- Medications that can cause disorientation, sleepiness or sleeplessness and dizziness
- Visual impairment caused by cataracts or glaucoma
- Cognitive impairments caused by either Alzheimer’s or dementia
- Balance issues which could be caused by mobility issues, loss of muscle strength or diminished flexibility
- Blood sugar or blood pressure issues that could lead to dizziness upon standing
If your relatives are determined to remain independent and age in place, there are steps they can take, and you can help them with, to make that a possibility. Here are some steps you can take to help them avoid a fall and help maintain a stronger body:
- Eating a balanced diet and drinking milk or getting calcium or Vitamin D from the foods they eat will help keep their bones strong.
- Bone-strength building exercises such as walking, dancing, aerobic exercise or resistance training helps build both bone and muscle strength. You should check with their physician first to see if they are healthy enough to undertake an exercise routine. Even if your elderly relatives use a walker or a cane they can still become more active simply by getting up and moving every hour.
- Balance can be improved by practicing yoga and daily stretches
- Annual hearing and vision exams will detect any issues before they cause a trip or fall accident.
- Ask the pharmacist whether any of the medications they take can cause any dizziness issues, especially when used in combination with each other.
- Avoid using alcohol as it can interact with medications and add to drowsiness or dizziness
As part of your elderly relatives aging in place, make certain the home has been age-proofed to prevent trips or falls. Here are some measures to take:
- Make certain hallways and closets are well lit. Install motion sensor lights with timers that will turn on and off upon entering or leaving a room.
- Keep all walkways clear of clutter and power cords
- All rugs should be secured to the floor with non-slip tape
- A lamp should be next to the bed where it can be easily reached during the night. A touch lamp is a great option and prevents having to fumble around in the dark to find the switch.
- All stairways should be in good repair and should have non skid treads on them.
- Handrails should be installed on all stairways and even next to the toilet.
- Grab bars should be installed in the shower and bathtub.
- The bathroom should also have non skid rubber floor mats to prevent stepping onto a wet floor.
- Put items that you use regularly within easy reach. Waist height is ideal placement for items in the kitchen and bathroom.
Helping your elderly relatives age-in-place if a gift for all family members. You can also help your relatives remain independent by offering them a home medical alert device. These devices can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a trip or fall or other health emergency.