Fall Prevention for Seniors

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every
three adults 65 or older falls each year, which can lead to serious injuries,
such as hip fractures and head traumas, causing more drastic senior care needs.
Among this age group, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.

Here are some tips for creating a safer home environment and
preventing future falls:

GET A CHECK-UP

Fortunately, falls are preventable. If your senior has
recently become a bit unsteady, make sure their doctor gives them a full
physical evaluation to rule out any medical issues. For instance, low blood
pressure can cause falls, as can diabetes, which can decrease sensation in
lower extremities. And an untreated ear infection can also throw off balance.

KEEP TRACK OF MEDICATION

Go over all medication — both prescription and
over-the-counter. Some drug side-effects and drug interactions can cause
dizziness, weakness, and drowsiness. And not taking medications properly or as
prescribed also can be hazardous.

MONITOR ALCOHOL INTAKE

Imbibing on alcoholic beverages can throw anyone off balance.

START AN EXERCISE AND STRETCH ROUTINE

Without exercise, you lose your muscle tone and strength —
especially in your legs — which is imperative in maintaining balance.

Current CDC guidelines for relatively fit people over 65 are
150 minutes of moderately vigorous (meaning exercise that causes you to break a
sweat, but you are still be able to have a conversation) per week in addition
to strength training twice a week. Alice Bell, a physical therapist
specializing in Geriatrics and an American Physical Therapist Association
spokesperson, recommends walking (at a fast enough pace to break a sweat),
bicycling, or dancing, such as Zumba classes. The CDC highly recommends Tai Chi
as a great aerobic activity as well as a way to increase balance.

CHECK THEIR EYES

Have your senior’s eyes checked by an eye doctor at least
once a year and update their eyeglasses.

CONSIDER GETTING FITTED FOR A CANE OR WALKER

It’s tempting to buy a cane or walker from a home health aid
store or even your local pharmacy, but a too tall or too short walker or cane
can often cause more harm than good.

BUILD BONES

Make sure that your senior is getting adequate calcium and
vitamin D in the diet. A study published in the medical journal, Osteoporosis
International, found that vitamin D supplementation can help improve balance
and strength.

In addition to adding calcium-rich dairy and dark-green,
leafy vegetables to her diet, ask your family doctor to screen your senior for
vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis. Also, ask for supplementation
guidelines.

RECOGNIZE HAZARDS

Take a look around your senior’s home and see what looks like
it might give them a problem. Check for proper lighting, both in standard
lights and nightlights; clutter such as stacks of newspapers near walkways;
cords from lamps, appliances, etc.; throw rugs — eliminate them, they’re trip
magnets.

REORGANIZE THE HOUSE

Consider rearranging the house so that your senior can live
on one floor (moving the bedroom downstairs, for example). Help your senior
avoid reaching for items by moving microwaves and other appliances to
waist-level. Also, use lazy susans or baskets to prevent reaching into high or
deep kitchen cabinets. And keep everyday items in arm-level drawers to prevent
bending.

UPDATE THE BATHROOM

If there’s a full-bath on the lower level, or you’re
considering adding one, make sure it has anti-slip tile; a shower stall that
doesn’t have a tub or lip on it; and sturdy hand bars around the shower and
toilet. Your doctor can also order an occupational therapist to do a home
safety evaluation, which may be covered by Medicare.

DEVELOP NEW HOUSE RULES TOGETHER

Simple rules, such as not bathing alone and getting help with
handiwork around the house can help prevent future falls.

GET A PHONE

Consider getting your senior a pre-paid cell phone with your
number and 911 programmed into it, if they don’t already have one. Or hook your
parent up with a home medical monitoring system: a pendant is worn around a
senior’s neck and in case of emergency; she can push a button on the pendant to
get immediate medical help. Most systems run about $1 a day for full-time monitoring.

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