Guest Post by Roger Sims
Falls are the primary cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the elderly. Every year, more than two million seniors are rushed to the emergency room after falling.
Several things can lead to the elderly falling, such as:
• Vision problems
• Difficulty walking
• Medication side effects that cause vertigo
• Foot or leg pain
• Household hazards
There is nothing to worry about, as it is easy to eliminate risk factors for falling. Fortunately, falls are easily preventable. Taking the right precautions can make your loved one’s home a safe environment. To ensure the safety of your loved ones, take the following steps to avoid these accidents.
Removing Household Hazards
Household hazards are the easiest risk to eliminate. As your parents get older, mobility can become an issue. Start by removing clutter around your house. These potential hazards include things like electrical cords, loose rugs, and knick-knacks. Clear all pathways of objects they might trip over, and do a thorough examination of their home.
You may find you’ll have to do minor repairs to correct a sloping step, broken tile, or loose floorboard. Rearrange their furniture so they will always have something stable to hold onto as they walk around. If they use a mobility device like a cane or wheelchair, increase doorway widths to 36 inches so they can maneuver easily.
Addressing Eye Problems
Of course, removing excess clutter and creating safe pathways won’t help much if they can’t see where they’re going.
Failing eyesight that comes with age can cause elderly people to misjudge distance and depth. Not only would it be hard to determine how far away a table edge is, but they could also have difficulty navigating staircases when going down.
The best way to avoid this issue is to regularly get your elderly loved one’s eyes checked in case their prescription needs to be updated. Encourage them to always wear their prescription glasses, even if it’s just for a short trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Ensure your home is well-lit and light switches are easily accessible. A lack of literal blind spots will aid your aging loved one in moving around the house, regardless of the time of the day.
Reading glasses should not be worn while walking, especially outside. Those who wear progressive lenses should ask their doctors for a separate pair for general outdoor activities, as these types of glasses may interfere with distance perception.
Increasing Physical Activity
One of the best ways to help prevent falls is to improve their balance by strengthening their core and lower muscles. As your loved one ages, their physical fitness and abilities may begin to decline. Muscle tone will gradually disappear and flexibility will decrease. This can be easily combated by regularly engaging in light exercise.
Activities that focus on strengthening the core, improving strength in the lower extremities, and improving balance are suggested to any senior looking to start a new exercise program. For caregivers, check out your local community centers to find fitness classes that are senior citizen friendly. Tai Chi is one often-recommended exercise. If you can’t find a class your aging loved one would like to join, simply encouraging them to walk a little bit each day is fine.
Some older people may not be inclined to start a new exercise program, for any number of reasons. In such a situation, offering to join your aging loved one in classes or short walks every day may encourage them to participate. Not only will you be helping them stay fit, but you’ll also be able to bond with them over a new activity.
For elderly individuals who already have trouble walking unassisted, it may be advisable to invest in equipment that allows them to walk independently while still having constant support. Canes and walkers are ideal for a senior who still wishes to get around but who may already have trouble doing so without a little helping hand.
Implementing Other Safety Precautions
Even the ideal physical fitness level for your loved one’s age stands no chance against slippery floors or just plain bad luck. As a final precaution against easily avoidable falls, it’s best to look into safety equipment that can be installed around your home to eliminate any chance of an accident.
Bathrooms are particularly notorious for slips and spills, for both elderly and young patients. Implementing assistive devices should be a top priority. Look for grab bars that can be attached to shower walls and bathtub sides, as well as non-slip bath mats that allow the elderly to stand without worrying about sliding on wet tiles. For those unable to stand in the shower, a bath chair can make showering a safer and more independent experience. Transfer benches are another option to help your senior get in and out of the shower.
Additionally, installing handrails on both sides of your stairs is recommended to ensure your loved one’s safety when they use the stairs. These handrails can provide a stable device for them to hold onto, but they can also be used in the event of a fall. Grabbing onto the rail can either stop the fall and allow them to steady themselves or can be used for them to get back up.
Providing the elderly with proper-fitting shoes is another important step. Make sure they wear comfortable, well-fitting—and, in the case of the ladies, low-heeled—shoes with a non-slip sole. These are essential in allowing them to move around without added difficulty and preventing them slipping on a wet surface.
Remember, if you are caring for an elderly relative, falls don’t have to happen. They are easily avoidable with the right safety precautions and a few additions like assist bars in the shower stall or handrails on the staircase.