Serious injuries as the result of trips or falls are suffered by one in three adults over the age of 65 and many of these happen in the home. These falls can lead to broken bones and other injuries such as head trauma and even death.
Senior-proofing the home for items such as trip and fall hazards should be a matter of course for your aging relatives if they’d like to continue aging in place. Look for loose or slippery carpets and bathroom hazards. There are other items that need to be addressed as well.
Here are some items to consider if your parents want to continue living independently:
- Limit alcohol intake as this can lead to balance issues and cause a fall in addition to other health issues and potentially dangerous interactions with their medications.
- Have a full physical: Many falls could be prevented if your relatives have a full medical work up to address any issues that could lead to slip and fall accidents. Diabetes which has inherent poor circulation problems, low blood pressure and ear infections can also throw their balance off and lead to falls.
- Clean the medicine cabinet and track all medications. Clear out old prescriptions and outdated medications – over-the-counter and prescriptions. Make certain your relatives are taking the medications as prescribed and in the proper dosages. If the prescriptions are from different doctors, check with one of them or the pharmacist to make certain there is no risk of interaction.
- Stay fit and active: If your parents aren’t getting any exercise, they will lose muscle strength and tone and this will make it harder to walk and maintain their balance. The Centers for Disease Control recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for those aged 65 and older. This means walking at a brisk pace, undertaking some aerobic activity such as swimming or a senior exercise class or bicycling. If your aging parent has health conditions that make it impossible to do this, ask a physical therapist to recommend some stretching exercises to help keep them in shape.
- Get their eyes checked: An annual eye exam is a must and eyeglass adjustments if necessary. An eye exam will catch any vision issues and proper eyeglass prescriptions will help to prevent falls if they have clear vision.
- Eat healthy meals: Cooking may become less of a priority as you age but getting adequate nutrients and vitamins are essential to good health. Additionally, ask whether they should be taking any supplements to address bone health issues or other vitamin deficiencies.
- Use a cane or walker: If your aging relatives are suffering from balance issues have them fitted for a cane or a walker. This will help them be mobile, but take care that they purchase a cane that is specifically suited to their height as one that is too short or too tall can lead to a trip or fall.
Even with all of the above steps implemented, you may still want to take it one step further and sign your parents up for a home medical alert system. With these devices, your parents will wear a medical emergency alert pendant; if they suffer a fall or other health emergency, all they need to do is push the button, a call is made to the home and if no answer is received, emergency medical personnel are dispatched.