A Caretaker’s Guide to Fall Prevention
Slip and fall injuries are incredibly common among people 65 and older. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that in America, a senior falls every second of every day.
Everyone falls on occasion but for those with weak bones, poor balance, or low vision, the risk of serious complications like hospitalization or death increases significantly.
To help caregivers, we've developed this brief but thorough guide to fall prevention.
Why is fall prevention important?
Each year, more than 36 million American adults fall, resulting in three million visits to the emergency room and approximately 36,000 deaths. As a caretaker, you've got a lot to worry about. By establishing a fall prevention plan, you can:
Reduce your care recipient's risk of a serious injury.
Prevent the need for hospitalization, surgery, or a stay in a rehab facility.
Maintain your loved one's independence.
Make your home safer and easier to navigate.
Eliminate hazards like cords, clutter, or slippery surfaces.
What should caretakers consider when developing a fall prevention program?
When developing a fall prevention program, it's important to consider the three most common risk factors for a fall—environmental factors, behavioral factors, and physical factors.
Environmental factors. Environmental factors include potential hazards like stairs and clutter or slippery and uneven surfaces.
Behavioral factors. Behavioral factors are things your loved one does that increase their fall risk, like not wearing their glasses or walking around in loose or poorly fitting shoes.
Physical factors. Physical factors are changes that occur in the body due to underlying health problems or the natural aging process. Examples of physical factors include stiff joints, weak muscles, and brittle bones.
Is a fall prevention program always necessary?
If you provide care for an older adult (someone 65+) it's a good idea to establish a fall prevention program. Even if your care recipient is relatively independent and mobile, putting certain safeguards in place now can reduce the risk of future accidents and allow them to age comfortably in place.
Simple tips for fall prevention:
Now that you know why fall prevention is so important, let's take a closer look at 7 simple tips for caregivers:
1. Visit the doctor. Many older adults experience falls due to underlying health problems. Make sure your loved one visits the doctor at least once a year for a physical exam, lab work, and age-appropriate screenings. Often, small adjustments like eating a better diet, losing weight, or getting a new eyeglasses prescription make all the difference. What's more, your senior's physician can monitor their health over time and provide you with updates and recommendations as things change.
2. Conduct a safety assessment. Fall hazards are everywhere, but you might not know it. An occupational therapist can conduct a safety assessment of your home and make suggestions to improve mobility. They might also recommend installing mobility aids, like grab bars or handrails in places like the bathroom or kitchen.
3. Keep the house clean and tidy. The cleaner your home, the easier it is to navigate. Keep all entryways, exits, and hallways free of cords, boxes, furniture, and clutter.
If your care recipient uses a mobility device like a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair, clear out enough space for them to easily move around. During the winter months, keep a second device in the garage or the trunk of your car. That way, you won't have to worry about seasonal hazards like melted ice or snow, making their way inside.
4. Invest in comfortable footwear. It's important that older adults wear sturdy shoes with adequate traction. That's especially true if your care recipient has an underlying condition that increases the risk of foot-related issues, like diabetes, arthritis, or peripheral artery disease (PAD).
5. Help with medication management. Certain medications have side effects that affect depth perception, balance, and coordination. Considering the average adult takes four or more prescription drugs daily, it's important to ensure your loved one's medicines aren't interacting negatively. A doctor who specializes in geriatric care can update or adjust your loved one's prescriptions.
6. Encourage physical activity. One of the easiest ways to reduce your loved one's fall risk is through regular exercise. A physical therapist can recommend physical activities, like stretches and strengthening exercises, that improve balance, coordination, and reaction times.
7. Update the bathroom. Restrooms are humid and present numerous fall hazards. Not to mention, most have slippery tile or linoleum flooring, increasing the risk of a fall or injury. Covering the floor with soft rugs and putting a seat in the shower can provide peace of mind.
We hope you've found this fall prevention program overview helpful. Here at Carewell, we carry a number of products that can assist in your efforts, including:
If you have questions about these or other products, reach out to our friendly Care Specialists, available 24/7, by calling (855) 855-1666 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.