Falls are one of the most dangerous things that a senior can experience. They can lead to hospitalizations, injuries, long-term health problems and even death. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) illustrate just how dangerous falls
can be. The CDC reports:
The best thing to do is to prevent falls from occurring in the first place. Here are five things you can do to prevent a loved one from falling:
1. Make the home “fall-safe.”
Remove fall and trip hazards from the home:
2. Read the side effects of all the medications your loved one takes.
- Fix broken or uneven steps.
- Remove throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over.
- Remove piles of magazines, clothing etc. from stairs.
- Install hand railings on all stairs.
- Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
- Make sure there are supportive arms on living room chairs and arm chairs around the kitchen table.
- Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
Look at prescription medications, especially tranquilizers, sedatives and antidepressants, as well as over-the-counter medications.
- Some medications can affect balance.
- Others can cause the bottoms of the feet to swell and “round” making it difficult to keep one’s balance.
- Talk with your loved one’s doctor about these side effects.
If you suspect, or see your loved one falling frequently tell the doctor. Many seniors do not tell their family members or their physicians about falls for fear of losing their independence. However, it is very important to get to the root cause of falls because hidden health issues may be contributing to a loss of balance.
3. Vision checks are important.
4. Pay attention to physical strength.
- Make sure that your loved one has a vision examination at least once a year.
- If he or she wears bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to suggest a pair of glasses with only one prescription for walking and leaving the house. Sometimes multiple prescriptions can impact depth perception, causing loss of balance and falls.
- Body weakness and a Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to falls.
- Walking, with assistance if needed, can strengthen the lower body for improved balance.
- Activities like senior or chair Yoga, movement and dance classes are designed to improve lower body and core strength and both create improved balance.
Ask your loved one’s doctor about Vitamin D and if you should be providing supplements. The winter depletes our Vitamin D levels which is used in part for muscle strength.
5. Good footwear is essential.
- Your loved one should be wearing footwear with a solid non-slip sole. Even slippers should have a non-slip sole to prevent falls around the house.
- In the winter, shoes and boots should have solid, non-slip treads that are made for walking on ice and snow.
- If your loved one is a fan of flip-flops you will have to convince them not to wear them. Podiatrists dislike flip-flops for many reasons, not the least of which is the fall and trip hazard that they present.
We know that this can be daunting for caregivers who also have family and work responsibilities. Falls can be prevented and it’s best to take it one step at a time. Prepare the house by eliminating fall hazards and then talk to your loved one about wearing solid sole shoes. Educating your loved ones about the danger of falls can go a long way toward preventing them.