Too many seniors are injured as a result of falls. Learn what caregivers and seniors can do to reduce the risk of falling.
Believe it or not, the CDC (cdc.gov) has found that the leading cause of death and injury among older Americans is falling down. For their own safety, caregivers and their seniors must take steps to reduce fall risks.
The dangers of falls for seniors are numerous. Everything from minor bruising to death can result depending on the severity of a fall and the individual’s health. While not all falls can be prevented, many can be.
Signs a Senior is at High Risk of Falling
The National Institute on Aging (nihseniorhealth.gov) says that losing a steady, healthy balance and gait is common among seniors. Other factors, like certain medications and diseases, can increase difficulty with balance. To determine if a senior is at high risk of falling, watch for the following signs:
- A change in gait
- Difficulty getting in and out of chairs or bed
- Reaching for support when bending, moving, or climbing
- Needing breaks while moving about routinely, like while climbing upstairs
- Straining to see clearly
- Watching one’s feet while moving
- Shuffling instead of lifting the feet when walking
- Pain in the joints, back, or lower body
- Diseases like Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, or Arthritis
If you notice signs like these, be proactive. Take steps to help seniors with preventative measures around the home and encourage them to practice walking safely outside the home as well.
Common Medical Conditions That Increase Fall Risk
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Chronic Pain
- Disorders of the Foot or Legs
- Thyroid or Blood Issues
- Weakened Muscles
- Sensory Issues with Hearing, Vision, or Neuropathy
Free Fall Prevention Checklist
The CDC offers a downloadable checklist for fall prevention. Use the list to determine what changes are needed to make your home a safer place for your senior. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/pubs/english/booklet_eng_desktop-a.pdf
Fall Risks and Prevention Strategies at Home
Floors and Stairs
- Loose rugs
- Steep steps or inclines
- Slippery surfaces
- Pets that get underfoot
Prevention: Add traction surfaces and rails along the walls. Clean up obstacles and secure pets when seniors need to move. Install a chair lift on the stairs if needed.
- High or low shelves
- Slippery floors
- Poor lighting
- Too much furniture
Prevention: Move common kitchen items to waist level. Add traction pads to floors and increase lighting. Remove or rearrange furniture for easier manoeuvring.
- Slippery surfaces
- Hard-to-access showers or tubs
- Lack of support
- Poor ventilation
Prevention: Keep the bathroom ventilated and dry. Add non-slip mats and grab bars. Install more accessible fixtures or seating and grab bars within the shower and tub.
Bedroom and Living Area
- Dim Lighting
- Clutter or excess furniture
- Lack of phones or night lighting
Prevention: Add lighting, include night lighting and clear a path for easy navigation at any hour. Secure cords, wires, and other tripping hazards behind furniture. Make phones accessible in case help is needed.
Outside the Home
- Unfamiliar areas
- Crowds and cluttered places
- Uneven terrain
Prevention: Accompany seniors closely, offering support as needed. Avoid busy hours and crowded locales. Stick to the sidewalk and locations that are familiar.
Home Care Tip:
Participating in a balanced and exercise program decreases fall risk. Contact a doctor, local YMCA, or Area Agency on Aging to find programs nearby for seniors with balance problems.
In 1995 he became Administrator of Dial-a-Nurse nursing agency, the oldest nursing agency in the Southwest Florida succeeding his mother who started the company 37 years ago. He is also President of Nevco, Inc., an educational healthcare training company begun in 1988.
Mr. Wolfendale has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce on various Missions to improve the quality of life around the world by development of supportive healthcare programs. In 2005 he traveled with U.S. officials and addressed the Italian National Government assisting in the creation of Nurse Education mandates for that Country. In 2006 he was invited and spoke with the National Institutes of Continuing Education in Eastern Europe on healthcare education and developmental mandates, and most recently represented the United States at the European Union in Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2011. In 2014 he traveled with the U.S. Department of State to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in an effort to improve caregiver knowledge and training.
Mr. Wolfendale has worked with a number of non-profits in contributing and creating curriculum to improve the quality of life in third-world countries since 2001, and notably created a successful program in Odessa, India that has been modeled in other areas of the world. In his backyard, he has worked with local Goodwill Industries to provide curriculum and training to underserved individuals who have obtained employment as a result of educational training. He was the Congressional appointment to the Governor's purple ribbon task force in 2013, and has worked to educate caregivers in all aspects of Alzheimer's training.
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