Preventing Falls in the Home
Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. The tragic thing is that these falls can often be easily prevented. To help you prevent yourself or a loved one from getting injured from falling you must evaluate three basic categories. First their health; Second their environment; and third the proper way to react to a fall.
In order to help prevent a loved one from falling, you must first evaluate their health. Make sure that you or a loved one have had their eyes and ears checked. Vision is one of the most critical parts of maintaining balance. Cataracts, even mild cases, can largely affect your balance. Also, poor vision could make it difficult to see tripping hazards such as long cords, rug edges, or small pets. Inner-ear damage and impaired hearing can also affect an individual’s balance. This is due to the individual being unable to detect auditory cues from their surroundings, making it harder for them to orientate themselves. A second health factor is arthritis. Many people will brush off arthritis as just a minor side effect of aging. However, any pain, deformity, or weakness can affect a person’s movement. These “minor” weaknesses can also affect your ability to react in a fall situation, especially if it is in your arms or shoulders. A third health factor is a person’s cognitive functions. If an individual demonstrates failing attention or has a form of dementia, they are at a higher risk of falls. Different neurological issues generally can result in difficulty with balance and stability. These issues can even start becoming present in the early stages of these neurological issues.
The second risk factor to evaluate is the environment. In order to prevent falls in the home make sure rugs are used sparingly. If you are going to have a rug in the home, make sure that it has an anti-skid backing. Putting rugs on slippery surfaces could make the risk of a fall greater. A second way to limit hazards in the home is making sure that areas and walkways are well lit. This can either be from natural light or light fixtures that will be out of the way and don’t have long cords. During night time, it is a good idea to install night lights in important walkways and areas, such as the bedroom(s) and any nearby bathrooms. Make sure to use LED night lights since they are bright and will save you more money in the long run. Also, night lights that automatically turn on at night are a bonus since you do not need to bend over to turn them on or off. Finally, the bathroom can be a dangerous place for falls. Make sure to install some form of a grab bar in both the shower and near the toilet. In the bathtub/shower, install a non-slip mat or verify the bathtub has a non-slip surface. Most falls happen when an individual is getting in and out of the shower when someone has one foot in the tub and one on the floor.
Finally, an important way to help with falls is to know the correct way to react when someone has fallen. The most important thing to do is to stay calm and ensure you are both safe. Once someone is falling do not try and catch them. You must let them fall but you can guide them to the ground with as little impact as possible, remember to protect the head. If the person who fell is not hurt and feels strong enough to get up, proceed slowly and safely. Have them roll onto their hands and knees and bring them a stable four-legged chair or have them crawl to a solid piece of furniture. Have them hold onto the piece of furniture with both hands and slowly get up. However, if the client is hurt or unable to get up, call 911 if they need an ambulance or take them to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
The most important thing is to be mindful of the risks and to be aware of your or a loved one’s surroundings. Making these minor changes can make a big difference in reducing the risks of a fall and fall-related injuries. Below we have provided a brief checklist to help you in assessing the fall risk of your loved one and their home.
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