Falls at any age can cause problems, but to seniors living in Mt. Vernon or elsewhere, they can be particularly serious. So much so that many palliative care experts suggest that doing everything you can to prevent them is a far better strategy than trying to improve quality of life after a fall occurs.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is available to help clients before and after falls take place. But the “before” certainly has its advantages.
Research shows that falls can cause all sorts of mental and physical conditions for seniors, everything from broken bones to hip fractures to traumatic brain injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 out of every 4 people over 65 falls in a year and 1 out of 5 falls causes a serious injury. About 3 million people are treated for fall injuries each year, and 800,000 require hospitalization.
Following a fall, seniors are often more prone to depression and may require a change in their care status if they aren’t able to move around as they used to or need more time for recovery.
They could need a caregiver or different duties for a home health care agency or a caregiver. In some cases where a fall led to a serious injury, they or family members may decide that independent living isn’t the best idea during their period of recovery or even longer, a change in their living situation that could cause further depression or anxiety.
What’s even more concerning is the fact that the odds of falling again doubles once someone falls just one time. A fear of falling or perhaps falling again can easily reduce the motivation to get out and do things, from visits with friends to regular exercise. A lack of physical activity can further decrease flexibility, stamina, and balance, all of which can contribute to increased fall risk.
Reducing fall risks
With all the potential damage a fall can cause, it’s important to look for ways to keep them from happening.
This goes beyond a general focus of “trying to be careful,” but putting conscious thought into many aspects of your life and home environment.
The National Institute on Aging says there are a number of things people can do to decrease fall risk, starting with making sure their bodies are in good shape.
- Falls can be caused by not seeing obstacles or improperly gauging distances.
- Missing certain sounds could also increase the risk of a fall.
- People with mobility problems are more likely to fall.
- Physical activity. Regular exercise can help your muscles continue to work well, reduce bone deterioration and help you with basic motion through your home, especially going up and down stairs.
- Getting up too suddenly from bed or a sitting position can cause a change in blood pressure and may trigger a fall.
- Experts also warn that some medications can have an effect on mobility and balance. Substances such as alcohol are known to impact balance.
Along with looking at the person themselves, another part of evaluating the fall risk equation has to do with the arrangement of their home.
Every room can potentially be a place where falling could occur. Even hallways could include area rugs that are easy to trip over or catch a cane or a walker and generally put someone off balance.
Bathrooms especially are dangerous. Not only is there a possibility of water, towels or clothing on the floor which increasing the possibility of slipping, but there are plenty of hard surfaces and sharp counters which could cause damage if a fall does occur.
Bathtubs and showers are slippery, and sometimes require a lot of muscle power and flexibility to get in and out of. There are also not many items to hold onto for support, and items like towel racks or shower curtain bars may pull down easily and unexpectedly.
When evaluating the safety of your home, look for areas and products that can increase safety.
For instance, a chair made for showers can let someone sit and also make getting in and out of the bathtub easier and safer. Sturdy railings through the home can offer something to hold onto if someone needs to catch their balance.
People serious about not falling are encouraged to be active in their prevention efforts. Besides making improvements to their home and looking at their own physical state, it’s often worth doing some research into how other people keep from falling.
There may even be classes or programs in your community that are designed to boost balance, flexibility or general exercise especially for seniors. Or if you can’t get out there yourself, consider online courses.
This effort can also include research into how other cultures help their seniors adapt and stay safe, such as the Dutch, who actually teach courses in better falling techniques that include letting students walk on different surfaces.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care can also provide useful pointers for those not knowing where to start in fall safety.