Preventing Elders From Falling
For the elderly, the odds of falling each year are about 33%. Good odds if you’re looking to win a lottery; not very good odds if you’re a senior or care for a senior and want them to stay safe and healthy.
When my father took a tumble, he fell on his shoulder. The result was his entire arm turned black & blue from bruising. He could not lift his arm above his shoulder. There were no broken bones, but he was not very comfortable, either. And for a guy who never complained, he said “this hurts”.
There may be many, many reasons for our elderly parents to fall. Many times, injury may be the result. Sometime dizziness when standing up from a sitting position. Or, medications which cause drowsiness. General balance issues can be a by-product of Parkinson’s, which causes “shakiness” and muscle deterioration. A senior may have vision issues due to loss of eyesight. Certainly pain brought on by arthritis and lower body issues related to hips, knees, ankles, feet, and swelling.
Fortunately, many falls are preventable. To reduce the likelihood of side effects from medications and to maintain overall health, make an appointment to see a physician(s). Have the doctor review all your medications for possible side effects and interactions that could increase the risk of falling. Speak to the doctor about any eye or ear problems that may increase the risk. Discuss questions about balance, numbness, dizziness and joint pain. (Always ask questions!) Many times, seniors don’t want to “see the doctor” because they instinctively understand they are going to be reprimmanded. Having a home health aide for the appointment can help clarify and understand issues, as well as provide guidance to initiating new habits and routines.
Keeping elders active as they age is very, very positive. It is only through exercise and activity that people will maintain and improve balance, muscle strength, flexibility and gait. People who are in good shape are less likely to fall. With many of our clients, Home Care Partner’s staff take the time to “go for a walk”. This helps us to keep our clients active, and moving. We don’t want elders sitting all day long. Keeping your muscles relatively strong necessitates using them! If you don’t maintain some level of activity, your muscles will naturally weaken. This may sound like “work”, but it is worth the effort. And we can provide the homecare staff to make sure simple safety procedures are followed.
Some quick reminders…where the feet meet the ground: Wear sensible shoes. Many seniors have foot and ankle issues. Sensitivity, swelling, and fraility. Stay away from accidents waiting to happen such as high heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles that can make you slip, stumble and fall. Shoes can provide some stability around your feet and ankles, as well as providing a stable platform for balance. Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles and choose lace up shoes instead of slip-ons (and make sure to tie the laces).
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164