Preventing Nighttime Slips and Falls for Seniors

Updated 8/14/15 10:19am | One of the main senior safety focuses at Alert1 is to prevent incidents related to impaired mobility or falls as you age. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of adults over 65 will experience a fall each year. I've talked to enough family caregivers to know that this is not an exaggeration. Senior risks related to falls include bone fractures and head injuries which can lead to extended health consequences. Senior fall prevention can be even more challenging at night, but there are steps you can take to improve your loved one’s nighttime safetyand reduce the chance they will slip or fall after the sun goes down.

Why are seniors prone to falling at night?

Visual impairment for seniors is one of the most significant challenges we face as we age, and changes in eyesight can be exacerbated by darkness. These changes can make it more difficult for seniors to walk around at night, as well as lower their confidence in their ability to do so. Strategically placing a nightlight and senior wall mount buttons in each room of your loved one’s house, as well as all hallways, is a great place to start. You can also increase the wattage in their light bulbs, place a touch-sensitive lamp on their nightstand, and be sure all hallways have switches at both ends. Placing a flashlight within arm’s reach of your loved one’s favorite resting places will help keep them safe in case they experience a power outage or nod off in their favorite comfy chair. Help your loved one “fall proof” their house and make sure their pathways are free from clutter that can become hazards in the darkness.

How can you reduce nighttime falls and slips?

Take the time to identify your loved one’s greatest nighttime fall risks. Chances are they will be when your loved one gets up from bed to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Installing a safety frame or grab bars around the toilet can help reduce the chance your loved one will have trouble standing up and sitting down. Keep senior mobility aids like canes or walkers by your loved one’s bed. If your loved one’s bedroom isn’t connected to a bathroom, they might like to have a portable commode near their bed to eliminate nighttime trips down the hallway. Caregivers should also equip seniors with slippers or socks that have traction, to help stabilize balance on slick surfaces.

As we get older, our bodies lose the ability to retain fluids for longer periods of time. Help your loved one stay in bed at night with these strategies that may help relieve pressure on their bladder. Repair or stabilize any furniture that could easily tip or break. Your loved one’s furniture should be strong enough to support their weight if they reach for it in the dark. Give your loved one a call right before their bedtime and remind them to put a water bottle on their nightstand. This will eliminate the need for them to get out of bed for a drink of water. If your loved one is taking any medications, you may want to review those medications for side effects that cause dizziness or restlessness, both of which would increase their chance of nighttime falls.

How can you help seniors sleep through the night?

There are simple changes caregivers can help seniors make to sleep through the night. Older adults that are restless through the night have a greater likelihood of fall related incidents. Common sleep related issues for seniors include sleep apnea, insomnia and daytime fatigue. Instead of sleep medications which are often habit-forming, Alert1 recommends alternative senior health treatments. Doctors often recommend relaxation techniques and regular exercise to modify sleep patterns. It’s also advised that seniors should limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption and smoking before bedtime. Fall prevention for seniors is manageable and it begins with gradual behavioral modifications.

Putting senior falls to rest

Even very minor changes can help your loved one stay on their feet. A colleague of mine recommended that her elderly mother get slippers with better traction. Her mother has to walk on slippery hardwood floors in the middle of the night, so they made a big difference in her mother’s safety and confidence. It's also important to have a plan in place in case your loved one does fall. A fall detection medical alert can help, especially if your loved one lives alone. If they fall, these useful devices can put them in contact with whoever is the best person for the situation, whether it is you, a neighbor or emergency personnel. As a caregiver, you play a vital role in actively reducing senior falls. Alert1 wants to know: has your parent or grandparent ever fallen at night? What steps did you take to prevent a recurrence? A medical alert system needs to be on that list.