September 22nd is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day and this year Bayshore Home Care has partnered with the National Coalition on Aging to educate our local healthcare professionals, older adults and family caregivers on the importance of fall prevention among the elderly. Currently, one in three older Americans falls every year. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+.
Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. Even falls that do not result in a major injury can cause an older adult to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active.
If you have an aging parent, grandparent, or neighbor in your life, helping them reduce their risk of falling is a great way to encourage them stay healthy and independent as long as possible.
5 Tips for Reducing Falls
Here are steps you can take today to help your older loved one reduce their risk of a fall:
1. Ask about their medications
Ask your loved one if they are having any trouble remembering to take their medications—or are they experiencing side effects? Some Medications can cause dizziness and vision changes. Also, make sure they’re taking advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the Annual Wellness visit. Encourage them to speak openly with their health care provider about all of their concerns. Also, beware of non-prescription medications that contain sleep aids—including painkillers with “PM” in their names. These can lead to balance issues and dizziness. If your older loved one is having sleeping problems, encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist about safer alternatives.
2. Ask about their last eye checkup.
If your older loved one wears glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses as advised by their eye doctor.
Remember that using tint-changing lenses can be hazardous when going from bright sun into darkened buildings and homes. A simple strategy is to change glasses upon entry or stop until their lenses adjust.
Bifocals also can be problematic on stairs, so it’s important to be cautious. For those already struggling with low vision, consult with a low-vision specialist for ways to make the most of their eyesight.
3. Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair.
These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help your older loved one improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker—and provide guidance on how to use these aids. Poorly fit aids actually can increase the risk of falling.
4. Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home.
There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. For professional assistance, consult with one of Bayshore’s Senior Care Managers. Here are some examples:
• Lighting: Increase lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs. Ensure that lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night.
• Stairs: Make sure hand rails are secure on all stairs.
• Bathrooms: Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where your older loved one would actually use them. For even greater safety, consider using a shower chair and hand-held shower.
5. The professionals at Bayshore can assist you through the entire process of ensuring you have a fall prevention plan in place for your loved one including:
• Education regarding safety concerns at home
• Instruction on proper use of medical equipment
• Evaluation of medications which may contribute to fall risk
• Assessment of balance and ambulation
• Referrals to support services and therapies to minimize fall risk