Steps Caregivers Can Take to Help Prevent Falls

caregiver and falls

It's estimated that 25% of older Americans (men and women who are over the age of 65) fall each year. In fact, falls are the top cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people in this age group.

Falls can cause many issues and injuries. Some of the most common include head injuries, hip fractures, broken bones, lacerations, and more. Even falls that don't cause a serious injury can result in an elderly adult being fearful or depressed, making it even more challenging to remain active.

If you have an older loved one or neighbor in your life, you can take positive steps to help with fall prevention.

The good news is that plenty of strategies are available to help you reduce senior falls. From making a home more senior-friendly to implementing the use of fall detection button alarms like the In-Home + Fall Detection Classic Medical Alert System, it's now easier than ever to keep the seniors in your life protected. Keep reading to learn more about how caregivers can help reduce senior falls. 

Common Causes of Senior Falls

While senior falling is something that happens to 1 out of 4 elderly adults a year, it can sometimes be prevented. One of the first things to know as a caregiver is some of the most common causes of these falls. These include things like:

·         Chronic conditions: Over 85% of older adults have some type of chronic condition such as arthritis, stroke, or diabetes. In many cases, these increase the fall risk due to pain, lost function, use of several medications (check out a medication reminder system to help with medication management), depression, or inactivity.

·         Gait or balance: As people age, many lose flexibility, balance, and coordination. This is attributed to both inactivity and hearing issues, which make falling more likely. Having the On-the-Go Medical Alert System with GPS and Fall Detection is invaluable for these situations. It ensures help may be reached 24/7/365, regardless of whether a senior is at home or not.

·         Environment: Some seniors have lived in their homes for a while and never thought of modifications that will help them be safer as they age.

·         Vision: Every year that passes, the eyes are also aging, and less light is making it to the retina. This can make obstacles, tripping hazards, and contrasting edges more difficult to see.

·         Medications: Some OTC (over-the-counter) medications and prescription medications result in dehydration or dizziness. They may also interact with each other, leading to a fall.

Now that you know some of the common causes of senior falls, it's time to create fall prevention strategies for them. This is helpful whether you are a family caregiver, professional caregiver, or just a concerned loved one. Thankfully, more resources are available than ever before to help you create an effective fall prevention program.

8 Effective Ways to Help Prevent Senior Falls

1. Address Any On-going Health Concerns

According to information from the National Council on Aging, a good first step in preventing falls in seniors is to assess any current health conditions they are dealing with. For example, is there a concern related to dizziness, balance, or falling? Are there health issues that have led to forgetfulness when it comes to taking medications? Are there concerning side effects of certain medications being taken?

You can discuss the medications your senior loved one is on with their doctor or a pharmacist to determine if their side effects increase fall risk. The senior's healthcare providers should be part of your fall prevention team and efforts.

2. Encourage Safe Exercises

An effective way to help prevent senior falls is to encourage seniors to engage in fall prevention exercises. When a senior stays active, it can pay off quite a bit, even if the activity is minimal. One exercise to encourage is leg lifts. This is something seniors can do even from a seated position. Moving the feet back and forth will help with circulation and strengthen the muscles.

3. Enlist the Elderly Person's Assistance to Prevent Falls

You should have a conversation with your senior loved one. Talk to them about falling and see if this is a concern they have. Some older adults know this is a risk but believe it will never happen to them or that they won't be injured. This is even true for people who have fallen in the past.

One strategy is to use the article "Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls," published by NCOA. If they are worried about balance, dizziness, or falling, get them to talk about it with their doctor and suggest options on this list to help them avoid this situation.

It may also be beneficial to suggest the use of medical alert systems with fall detection. The systems offered by Alert1 provide optional fall detection technology that includes a built-in sensor to automatically detect falls.

4. Schedule Annual Vision Tests

As mentioned above, when a person gets older, their retina will receive less light. Because of this, it makes it more difficult to see things that are in the way, or that may cause a fall. Also, tint-changing lenses are often unsafe when moving from a brightly lit area (such as outside) to a dimmer location. Your loved one should wait and let their lenses fully adjust before moving forward. For some, bifocals are also challenging. They can make it harder to navigate safely over steps and stairs.

5. Conduct a Safety Assessment in the Home

You can take several steps to make a senior's home safer. As a caregiver, it's a good idea to walk through the senior's home to see what can be changed or what home modifications can be used to make the space less likely to cause a fall.

Some of the factors to look at and consider during this assessment include:

·         Lighting: It's smart to increase lighting in a senior's house. This is especially beneficial at the bottom and the top of the stairs in the home. Make sure the lighting can be easily accessed by seniors when they get up at night.

·         Stairs: Be sure there are railings on both sides of the stairs in the home.

·         Bathrooms: Bathrooms are the location of many senior falls. To help prevent these, install grab bars in the shower or tub and close to the toilet. Be sure they will be in locations where a senior will see and use them. To increase bathroom safety further, consider using a hand-held shower and shower chair. Shower-proof emergency button alarms, or medical alert systems, can also be worn for added security.

6. Consider the Senior's Footwear

Many folks want to be comfortable. This may mean slipping on comfy shoes or bulky slippers. Unfortunately, some footwear can increase the risk of a fall.

It's good to provide senior loved ones with more practical and safer footwear options. This will help them stay comfortable while helping to prevent the potential of a fall.

7. Ensure Seniors Use Recommended Assistive Devices

Some seniors don't want to be bothered with assistive devices like walkers and canes. Some fear it will limit or reduce their mobility. The truth is that the use of these assistive devices can help your senior loved one or the elderly person you care for stay mobile longer.

8. Remove All Potential Tripping Hazards

Clutter must be removed from the hallways, stairs, and other areas the senior uses often. Be sure the flooring is dry and clean, too, since spills and dust may keep shoes and other footwear from gripping the floor as they should.

It's also recommended that you remove any area rugs in the home or affix them to the floor using strong bonding tape. This will ensure they don't slide or curl up, creating tripping hazards. Be sure to install non-slip mats in the shower and bathtub too.

These are all actionable steps you can take right now to help prevent senior falls and the injuries that often go with them. Taking these steps will be beneficial for your senior loved one and give you peace of mind, as well. Medical alert systems from Alert1 are another great way to bring security and peace of mind to seniors and their families, by knowing that help is standing by 24/7/365 and no one ever has to face an emergency alone.