According to the CDC, for those 65 and over, deaths from falls have increased by over 30 percent in the last ten years. And with more older adults attempting to age in place, preventing falls is one of the best ways to keep you or your loved one safe in their golden years.
Luckily, in my years of experience as a caregiver, I’ve learned some handy ways to maintain balance and prevent falls and injury from occurring altogether.
While the causes of falls are often complicated and unpredictable, there are some simple steps you can take to decrease the risk of falls, both in and out of your home.
Keep your home clean
It may seem obvious, but not all falls are the result of mobility and health issues. In my experience, many falls are the result of clutter around the house, particularly things stacked on the stairs.
The first step in preventing falls is to make sure that walking paths are free and clear of invasive objects. If your loved one is unable to tidy up for themselves, consider hiring a part-time home caretaker, who can help them out on a weekly basis.
Visit your doctor
Hopefully, you already know the importance of having regular check-ups with a primary care physician, but something many people don’t know is how a doctor can help you to prevent falls.
Common medications, such as anticholinergic drugs, can increase the likelihood of falls. If you mention to your doctor that falls are a concern, they’ll be able to run through your list of medications and point out any potential hazards. Additionally, if you have a history of falls, a doctor can help you figure out if there are any other contributing health factors.
Pick the right shoes
While shoes such as high heels, flip flops, and shoes with slick soles certainly have their time and place, they also lack the support and traction to help you maintain balance. If falls are of concern to you or your loved one, I recommend investing in a supportive pair of shoes with nonskid soles. If they can help cooks navigate oil-slick floors, then they can definitely help you maintain balance in and outside of your home.
This one might sound counterintuitive — increasing physical activity to cut down on injury — but keeping a regular exercise regimen can help improve your strength and balance. Low-impact exercises such as walking, water aerobics, and yoga will better your overall health and prevent the likelihood of injury.
Use assistive devices
When it comes to preparing your home to age in place, there’s a whole lot of simple ways to make mobility less of a hassle. Walk-in tubs can help prevent falls in the bathroom, one of the most common sites of injury for seniors. We’ve done our research and have compiled a list of this year’s best walk-in tubs.
Additionally, you can install handrails on walls and hallways to facilitate easy navigation. Also, never underestimate the power of non-slip surfaces such as carpets and skid mats (particularly on stairs). These will go a long way towards preventing one’s feet from slipping out beneath them.
Navigating Stairs: When traversing staircases becomes an issue, you should consider installing a stairlift to free up mobility throughout one’s home.
What To Do When a Senior Falls
With all that said, sometimes falls are inevitable. It’s just part of getting older. If and when a fall should occur, here’s what you should do.
First, you should check and see if your loved one can stand up on their own. If they can’t, don’t panic. Comfort your loved one, and assure them that everything is going to be okay. Ask them if they feel pain on any part of their body, and check for any bruising, skin discoloration, or bleeding. If your loved one responds with pain when you touch their limbs, then you should immediately contact an ambulance, as this could be a sign of broken bones or something more serious.
If there are no blatant signs of injury, then you should help them get back up on their feet. Give them all the time and space they need to stand on their own, and then guide them to a seat. For the next 24 hours, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them. Oftentimes, people may hide an injury due to embarrassment. So you’ll want to make sure their mobility has gone unabetted.
If you notice any changes in the way they walk or hold themselves, then you may want to contact their doctor for a check-up.
For further reading, check out some of our other hands-on caregiving guides:
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here