You Just Had a Bad Fall – Now What?


When we think about falls among the elderly, we might think of a tumble on the stairs or from some height. And although those things do unfortunately happen, the truth is that most falls are from ground level or just above it, such as falling from a curb. However, even senior falls from low heights can lead to serious issues: a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center found that adults over the age of 70 are much more likely to suffer severe injury and even death as a result of ground-level falls than those who are younger. In fact, the elderly are three times more likely to die than their younger peers from ground-level falls[1].

The World Health Organization points out that about 20 to 30% of senior adults who fall experience subsequent moderate to severe bruising, hip fractures, and head trauma[2]. After a senior fall, even if there were no injuries, there are psychological effects[3]. A study in the National Library of Medicine found that those who fall are more likely to be much more cautious about their movements and might even limit their day-to-day tasks in the home; this reduction in activity can lead to decreased mobility, which can actually increase the chances of another fall.

Medical alert technology can work wonders to boost confidence by ensuring you can get help in the event of a fall or other emergency.

Other Dangers of Falling

The immediate aftermath of a fall might consist of anything from a few small bumps and bruises to broken bones. Hip fractures are one of the most common consequences of falls among the elderly; a whopping 90% of all hip fractures are caused by falls. In fact, they’re the top fall-related injury that leads to hospitalization[4].

There are other consequences beyond that of the pain and hospitalization that can occur after a fall. If you wind up bedridden, like you likely would after a hip fracture, you lose muscle strength every day. The bed rest can lead to dizziness, due to lower blood oxygen and plasma levels. You can experience muscle spasms and pain, and risk negative changes in your stability and balance.

Handling the Immediate Aftermath of Falls

A fall is a sudden event that can leave anyone disoriented and confused. One minute you’re on your feet and the next minute, you’re not – how did that happen? It can be very easy to panic in the immediate aftermath, especially if you are in pain or are alone. It’s important to take a few deep breaths so you can remain calm and assess what to do next.

The first thing to do is check your body for injuries. What hurts? Is the pain mild enough that you can breathe through it and think calmly, or is it bad enough that it’s contributing to panic? If you have a medical alarm watch or pendant, don’t hesitate to call for help. If you’re not sure how bad the pain is, or if there’s a true injury, call for help. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially in a situation that could lead to a long-term injury.

With an Alert1 medical alert device, while you wait for on-site help, the professional you reach out to at our Command Center will stay on the line with you. You will not experience an injury or accident alone.

If you are sure that you have no broken bones or serious injury, you can try getting up by yourself. But use significant caution as you do so. Here’s the easiest way to do it[5]:

·         Roll onto your side. Take your time. Get onto your hands and knees.

·         Slowly and carefully crawl to a strong, sturdy piece of furniture. A recliner or sofa is ideal.

·         Rise up to a kneeling position, with both knees on the floor. Place your hands on the furniture. Make sure the furniture is very stable.

·         Move your strongest knee forward and place that foot flat on the floor.

·         Push upward with your leg and your arms. This should push you up from the floor. Move around gently until you are sitting down on that chair or sofa.

·         Stay seated. Reassess your body. What hurts? Do you need medical attention or help?

·         Make sure you are confident before you stand up. When you do stand up, do it slowly. Hold onto furniture for the first few steps you take, still assessing your body for injury.

If at any point during this process you feel pain or simply get too nervous to try getting up on your own, using a medical alert device is always recommended. Alert1 never charges members for button pushes or “false alarms” so if members simply want the help of someone to make sure they can get up safely, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t hesitate to do what it takes to make you feel safe and secure.

What to Expect After a Fall

If you have suffered an injury from falling, you need to get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that even though 25% of those over the age of 65 will experience a fall each year, less than half of these seniors mention the fall to their doctors. This is a grave mistake, as there could be injuries that show up well after the fact, or there could be underlying medical conditions that caused the fall.

Here’s what you need to do when the fall is over and you are back on your feet[6].

·         Call your doctor. The doctor might want you to make an appointment or come in immediately. They will probably ask you several questions about the fall to help determine the right course of action.

·         Get assessed for illness and injury. The doctor should do a thorough work-up to ensure there are no significant injuries. They will also look for medical issues that can cause falls, such as dehydration, pneumonia, general weakness, heart problems, anemia, strokes, or even a urinary tract infection.

·         Get the recommended tests. Some of these tests will be quite simple, such as checking your blood pressure when you are sitting and then when you are standing. There might be a blood test to make sure all is well – problems with anemia, potassium, or vitamin D levels will show up on a blood test.

·         Discuss your medications. Some medications can increase your fall risk, such as sedatives, sleeping pills, or those for anti-anxiety, blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia. Medications for pain, such as opioids, can increase your risk of falling as well, especially if you aren’t accustomed to taking them. The CDC recommends a medication review for anyone concerned about falls.

·         Get a balance and gait test. Your doctor will watch the way you walk to determine if there are issues with your gait or balance. They will then address any issues they find through pain management, physical therapy, or other interventions.

·         Look for underlying conditions. Problems with your heart or blood pressure, as well as the onset of something new, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, can lead to falling. Your doctor can run the appropriate tests.

·         Check your vision. Do you need glasses or an updated prescription? Your eye doctor can check things out and make sure nothing is wrong.

·         Check your hearing. Hearing loss causes balance issues, which increases fall risk.

·         Keep aging in place as safe as possible. Make sure your aging in place home modifications are appropriate and safe by getting a safety evaluation. Your doctor can order this. It’s covered under Medicare.

Tips for Fall Prevention

Active fall prevention for seniors is one of the best ways to ensure the elderly can stay independent and age in place as long as possible. The peace of mind obtained from a medical alert pendant can work wonders for confidence, which can help prevent falls. Here are other fall prevention strategies for the home[7]:

·         Inspect the floors to ensure no trip hazards, like loose rugs or cords.

·         Floors should not be slippery. Apply non-skid tape or non-skid paint if necessary.

·         Give your bathtub or shower floor the non-slip treatment too.

·         A shower chair can help those who are unstable on their feet.

·         Install grab bars in the bathroom and railings in the hallways or along staircases.

·         Make sure there is plenty of light to see where you’re going.

·         Use fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark strips on stairwells and on any thresholds that could catch a toe.

·         Motion-activated lights will help ensure you can see wherever you are.

·         Wear appropriate shoes that fit properly and don’t slip.

·         If you have a mobility aid, like a walker or cane, use it every time you move around the house.

·         Reorganize cabinets and closets so you don’t have to reach high or bend low to retrieve what you need.

·         Get regular exercise to keep your body strong and nimble.

Why Fall Detection Devices Matter So Much

Medical alert pendants with built-in fall detection are recommended for peace of mind. Unfortunately, many seniors only check into these life-saving devices after they’ve suffered a fall. That tumble can be a wake-up call that reminds you to not only get a fall detection device for seniors, but also to employ fall prevention options in your home to keep it from happening again.

When choosing your medical alert device, it’s always a good idea to look for one with fall detection. This device works with tiny fall sensors that can detect a fall is unique and immediately send an alert to our Command Center, even if you cannot press your button. The professionals at the Command Center will know you have fallen, even if you are unable to communicate through the emergency medical alert for any reason. They will send whatever help you need. The peace of mind of knowing that you can get help right away, even if you are alone and unable to communicate, is worth the affordable monthly rate for an Alert1 Medical Alert.