A Fall Focus on Fall Prevention
For most of us, fall season is a beautiful season filled with a sense of change and reflection of another year heading toward winter. While you’re surveying the beautiful hues of orange, red, and yellow leaves on the trees, don’t forget to watch where you’re going!
According to the CDC, about 36 million falls are reported among older adults 65+ each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for a fall injury. One out of every five reported falls requires medical treatment, such as for broken bones or head trauma.
What might have seemed like a minor fall 20 years ago can become life-altering when we get to an age where our body does not react or recover like it used to. In the course of taking care of hundreds of seniors who live with us at United Methodist Communities at the Shores, we’ve learned a thing or two about preventing falls and identifying fall risks. This information can be used right now by families acting as caregivers for their older loved ones.
Identify Hazards in the Home
According to the National Institute on Aging, 60% of senior citizen falls happen right in their homes, and 80% of those occur in the bathroom. It’s safe to say that the bathroom is a good place to start identifying hazards.
- Install a safety bar in the shower. To borrow a phrase from Nike, Just Do It. A wet shower is the number one place seniors slip, and without something solid to hold, they are just asking for trouble. It doesn’t cost much to have a professional install it right over the tile, into the studs behind the wall – so it is held strongly and securely.
- Tile floors should be covered with no-slip mats. Water that spills onto your mom’s pretty tile floor is slippery. It’s like putting a bit of ice under a senior’s foot as they exit the shower or bath. There are hundreds of colors and shapes to choose from, just make sure the mat you select is designed for the bathroom floor and has rubber on the bottom to prevent sliding.
- Toilet handrails – Turning and lowering oneself is another action that becomes more difficult as we get older. A handrail next to the toilet gives seniors another point of stability and support as they negotiate getting up and down.
- Keep important, frequently used items on the low shelves. A simple rearrangement of where things are in the bathroom and kitchen can eliminate most unnecessary reaching and grabbing for your senior parent.
- Get rid of clutter – Many children notice that their parents aren’t keeping things as neat and clean as they used to. If boxes and other clutter begin to pile up in odd places, their home can become a bit of an obstacle course. Bottom line is that the less stuff seniors leave lying around, the less there is to bump into or trip over. You can do your part by making sure to pick up all the grandkids’ toys after they visit Mom!
Identify Potential Health Issues that Pose a Fall Risk
If the senior you’re caring for has eyesight problems, stiffness, mobility issues, or dizzy spells when rising suddenly (called “Postural Hypotension”), or signs of memory loss, all of these will put them at increased risk of falling. A doctor is certainly the best person to help mitigate these conditions and recommend a plan of medication, exercise, and diet that can help longer term.
Sometimes seniors won’t admit they are experiencing these symptoms or will deny their severity. “It’s nothing, I just got up too fast…” If you are a caregiver, we recommend that you do your best to get them in front of their doctor sooner rather than later to avoid a fall or serious injury.
There May Come a Time…
We all have busy lives. The complexities of dealing with parents as they age are as complicated and varied as there are unique families in the world. But even those seniors lucky enough to have a loving family around them may come to realize that the 24/7 care and monitoring available in a good assisted living community is exactly what they need. The odds of a senior having a fall are greatly reduced in a well-designed senior community like The Shores, and if a senior does have an accident, team members are on-site 24/7 to respond quickly and provide aid.
To learn more about how we enforce senior safety at our assisted living community in South Jersey, please give us a call or visit our website at: https://umcommunities.org/theshores/