Falling is one of the leading causes of injury in seniors, and a bad fall can cause many different types of serious harm, from fractured hips and broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. Even the fear of falling can be a real problem if seniors stop participating in more activities, preventing them from maintaining their strength and vitality. However, you can help protect an elderly loved one by educating yourself on fall prevention and doing your part to integrate some simple changes into your senior’s life.
Here are 10 things you can do to help prevent a fall:
- Clear the floor. Most falls take place in the home, so start there. Remove clutter and items such as small furniture, throw rugs, and electrical cords from the floor.
- Get proper lighting. Install light switches by the entrances to halls and rooms. Add fixtures with multiple bulbs to main areas in the home, such as exits and bathrooms. Keep window shades or curtains open whenever possible to allow natural light in.
- Modify bathrooms for safety. Add wall grab bars, shower seats, and adjustable, handheld showerheads to bathtubs and showers and put down slip-resistant flooring. Use a lower bathtub if possible and a shower with a curb-free entrance. Toilet safety frames and rails near the toilet are easy modifications, too.
- Practice balance. Regular yoga, Tai Chi, or Pilates is a great way for your senior to build up better balance.
- Encourage strengthening exercises. Strong bones and flexible joints not only prevent falls, but they reduce the impact if a fall does occur. Weight-bearing exercise is crucial to senior bone health and strength. Exercise in moderation and with a variety of different approaches.
- Prevent Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone-depleting disease that raises the risk of fractures from a fall. Make sure your senior is getting enough calcium through their diet or a supplement. Try to get your senior outside for at least 15 minutes a day to get Vitamin D from sunshine, or have them take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Check eyesight. Annual appointments with an ophthalmologist or optometrist are an important way to diagnose and treat vision problems with glasses or contact lenses of the appropriate strength, and to catch eye health issues early.
- Take a closer look at medications. Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause side effects like dizziness and disorientation. Opioid pain medications, sedatives, and antihistamines can increase the risk of a fall.
- Get a risk assessment done. Visiting nurses, clinical social workers, and doctors who do home visits can assess hazards in the home and check for signs of disorientation.
- Put a medical alert system in place. These systems and devices can alert emergency services when your senior has fallen and can’t move to call for help by phone. Knowing that an alert system is in place can increase your senior’s confidence as they go about their day.
Fall prevention is crucial to avoiding damaging injuries in the ones we love. While there are many risks out there, there are also plenty of things you can do to ensure your loved one’s safety and help them feel confident and strong so their later years are safer, easier, and happier.