How to Prevent Falls in the Elderly
As a caregiver for an aging family member, one of your concerns may be how to protect them from a fall or fall related injury, and for good reason: Each year, one in four elderly adults suffers a fall. And while medical costs from these injuries total an estimated $31 billion annually, the emotional impact on both aging adults and their loved ones is immeasurable.
Help protect your loved one’s physical and emotional wellbeing with these simple precautionary caregiver tips for preventing falls in the elderly:
1. Secure Walkways and Stairs: Fall prevention for senior starts in the home. Spend a day in the life of your loved one, tracing the steps of their daily routine and inspecting stairs, carpets, rugs and floors for any potential risk factors as you go. A cracked or uneven step, unsecured throw rug or broken floor board or tile can easily cause a slip and fall. Minimize tripping hazards by:
- Use brightly colored tape to mark uneven steps or hazards.
- Ensure there are two secure rails on stairways.
- Install additional lighting throughout the house, especially at the top and bottom of stairs.
- Provide easily accessible lights for when your loved one wakes in the night.
- Remove furniture and clutter from crowded pathways.
- Secure throw rugs with rubber rug pads or double-sided carpet tape.
2. Install Handles in Bathrooms: Your loved one is especially vulnerable to falls in the bathroom. Take the time to install grab bars in the tub or shower and near the toilet. Make sure they’re installed where they can be used easily. For even greater safety, consider purchasing other fall-prevention products such as a shower chair and hand-held shower.
3. Pick Safe Footwear: If your loved one is wearing slippers or going sock-footed around the house, they need to switch over to safer shoes to prevent falls in the house. More supportive footwear that has no-slip soles and a back can help prevent the chances of falling. If they have trouble finding such shoes that fit comfortably or suffer any medical conditions affecting their legs or feet, consider setting an appointment with a podiatrist to have them fitted for corrective footwear that may help blood flow, ease pain and promote better, steadier strides.
4. Encourage Exercise: Staying in good physical condition is a great way to prevent older people from falling. No one is too old to start a hobby, so encourage your loved one to tackle some low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, yoga or tai chi. These gentle exercises promote balance, boost coordination and improve both strength and flexibility, helping seniors stay steady on their feet and reducing the risk of slips and falls, and resultant injuries.
5. Talk to Their Doctors and Be an Advocate: If you’re helping to manage your loved one’s health, it’s a good idea to be in close contact with their doctors – and to talk to those doctors about minimizing your loved one’s risk of falling. Being thorough and pro-active in advocating for your loved one allows you to brainstorm the best preventative solutions with their expert care team. Here’s how:
- Side-effects of certain medications may actually increase a patient’s risk of falling – but that of course doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one should stop taking them. If they’re prescribed certain sedatives or antidepressants, check with their doctor to see if there’s reason to wean them onto an alternative medication.
- Pay attention to whether your loved one holds onto walls, has difficulty walking, or shows any other signs that they need extra assistance. And make a point to talk to their doctor about any current health conditions that could contribute to a fall.
- Last but not least, be sure your loved one is also seeing an eye doctor regularly to address any potential vision problems.
Falls are a major hazard for seniors and a serious concern for those close to them. The good news? With a few simple steps you can help safeguard your loved one from dangerous slips and falls and reduce your stress as a caregiver – and both of those outcomes are well worth a little extra time and planning.
Third-party references and links provided in this article are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. Information was used from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, and the National Institutes of Health.
© Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019
Caring for elderly parents can hard, especially if you are also juggling your own family and a job. These tips may help you deal with the stress that comes with the responsibility.