Maintaining independence is often a goal of many people as they age, but this independence isn’t always safe. Falls are one of the biggest threats faced by older people. Caregivers often worry about their loved one falling when they aren’t there to help, which can be understandably worrisome. Here are 6 tips for caregivers to help them reduce the chances of their loved one falling.
Common Causes of Falls
Understanding why we fall can help caregivers customize their fall prevention to the unique needs of their loved one. Some common reasons elderly individuals are more prone to falling include:
- Balance and gait: It isn’t uncommon to lose coordination, balance, and flexibility as we age. Often this loss is due to reduced activity, but it can lead to dangerous tumbles.
- Vision: As our eyes age, our vision decreases. This is because less light reaches the cornea, so it can be more difficult to distinguish corners and edges, tripping hazards, and distances.
- Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to falls. Other interactions between medications can lead to fatigue, dehydration, and other factors that make a fall more likely.
- Environment: Many older individuals have spent many years in their home, but haven’t made upgrades to make it safer and more comfortable for them at their advanced age.
- Chronic conditions: Many older people suffer from at least one chronic condition, which can reduce functioning and increase the risk of a fall. Common conditions include diabetes, arthritis, and stroke.
Tip #1: Enlist Your Loved One’s Help
Changes can be difficult to think about, and you loved one may be in denial about their risk of falls and serious injury. It is important to talk with them about their changing abilities and the increased danger of falls. Find out if they have concerns about falling, their balance, or dizziness, and help them discuss these concerns with a healthcare provider. Work together to assess your loved one’s risk of falls and to find programs or services to help.
Tip #2: Keep Up-to-Date on Their Current Health Conditions
Your loved one’s health can rapidly change, so it is important to keep track of the latest developments. This includes medications, symptoms, and new diagnoses. Ask them about their medication routine, if they are taking advantage of preventative care, and other services offered by their healthcare provider to help them remain healthy.
Tip #3: Ask About Your Loved One’s Glasses & Vision
As discussed above, our loved ones’ vision may not be what it once was. Glasses can help improve declining vision, but they can also present other problems. Out-of-date prescriptions can cause blurriness, so find out when was your loved one’s last eye appointment. Transitioning lenses can make it easier to see in bright sunlight, but they can cause issues when moving from bright light to the indoors. Changing glasses or stopping until the transition has adjusted can prevent falls due to their lenses remaining too dark. Bifocals can make it easier to move between activities, such as reading and watching television, but they can also make it difficult to navigate stairs, uneven ground, and other situations when your loved one is looking down.
Tip #4: Watch How Your Loved One Moves Around Their Home
Simple observation can provide great amounts of information about your loved one’s balance and coordination. Look for them using walls, furniture, or another person when they move around. Watch them stand up from a chair and how they walk. If they appear to have difficulty moving around, standing, or sitting down, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. They can help your loved one find solutions to help them move around better and recommend walking aids such as a cane and walker. Be sure to use properly sized aids, since poorly sized ones can actually increase the risk of falling.
Tip #5: Discuss Their Medications
Many older people may have a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications they take every day. Side effects is a significant concern, as is remembering how to take medications appropriately and when to take them. Review their prescription and over-the-counter medications with their healthcare provider, especially when making changes to their routine, adding medications, or changing doses. Don’t forget occasional medications, such as cold medicines, gastrointestinal medications (antacids, anti-gas, laxatives, anti-nausea medications, among others), and supplements.
Tip #6: Perform a Walk-Through Assessment of Their Home
When you next visit, take the time to walk through your loved one’s home and yard to assess the safety of their surroundings. Look for things that can cause issues, or can be improved to help them, such as:
- Lighting throughout the house, especially near stairs. Make sure it’s easily available at night.
- Stairs and handrails. Make sure they’re clear of tripping hazards and have sturdy handrails.
- Bathroom fixtures, such as carefully placed grab bars, shower seats, and hand-held shower heads.
- Landscaping, especially tree roots, hoses and sprinklers, loose pavers or cracked concrete, and puddles, mud, or ice.
Talk with an occupational therapist for other ideas to increase the safety of your loved one’s home. They can provide professional advice to help your loved one safely maintain their independence in their own home.
At King Street Rehab, we are dedicated to helping our clients rebuild their independence with caring support and fully trained professional rehabilitation staff. Our beautiful Westchester County rehab facility is here for your loved one while they recover from a serious procedure or injury. Let us assist your entire family by providing personalized therapy and care for your loved one.