Fall Prevention For Aging Adults
Every year, more than 36 million falls are suffered by senior adults — those who are 65 and older — in the United States. Of these, 3 million seniors are injured badly enough to be transported to emergency departments to receive treatment for serious trauma to the head and broken bones — including hip fractures. Senior women fall more often than men and account for 75% of all hip fractures. Even worse, more than 32,000 of these falls result in the death of a loved one.
Our senior citizens should not be putting their health and safety at risk simply because they are moving, inside their homes. Preventive actions can be taken to make their daily lives safer.
Take Your Senior Loved Ones to See Their Physicians
There are many reasons why older adults might be experiencing falls. It’s important to see a physician for a thorough examination to determine whether there are any medical explanations that might lead to falling.
Falls can be the result of poor eyesight, so pay a visit to an optometrist to learn if your loved one might require an adjustment to his or her prescription glasses. An optometrist can also diagnose diseases and disorders of the eyes. Serious vision impairments, such as cataracts or glaucoma, can come on so gradually that your senior relative might not even be aware of any changes or reduction in his or her eyesight.
See a physician to better ensure your senior adult is not having problems with his or her feet. Peripheral neuropathy is a degenerative condition that affects the nerves in the feet. Symptoms of neuropathy include foot pain, weakness and a numb-like sensation of “pins and needles” in feet.
Although people with diabetes typically have neuropathy more often than people without the disease, neuropathy can also be caused by nerve damage, pressure on the nerves in a foot, exposure to toxins or poison, vitamin deficiencies, and alcoholism. Therefore, don’t dismiss neuropathy simply because your loved one doesn’t have diabetes.
Tell the physician about any prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications your loved one is using. Review the dosage amount and time of day the prescriptions should be taken. If the patient has lost or gained weight, a change in dosage might be needed.
A doctor might also recommend better-fitting footwear that supports the ankles, or walking aids, such as a walker or cane.
Make Your Senior’s Home Safer
- Rid your loved one’s home of clutter that can create a tripping hazard. Throw rugs might need to be removed or anchored securely to the floor.
- Check for electrical cords that have not been stowed out of the way.
- Securely install metal grab bars throughout the house, wherever stairs are present, but handrails are not, such as at the doorway from the garage to the kitchen.
- Add lighting throughout the house. Incorporate timers that illuminate lights at dusk and voice-activated technology, so older adults don’t need to fumble with switches.
Invest in Medical Alert Systems With Fall Detection Technology
At one time, medical alert technology consisted of only a two-way communication system. If an elderly person fell and couldn’t get up, that person could press a button and talk with a dispatcher, who would contact emergency personnel. However, if the user was unconscious from a fall or other accident, and unable to speak, the method of notification would not work as well.
Today’s high-tech medical alert systems and accessories feature added technology that can recognize when a user might be injured or in distress. The wearable accelerometers and gyroscopes can detect falls. The built-in barometer of some models is so powerful, it can detect tiny differences in atmospheric pressure — enough to differentiate between the pressure at a standing or seated level compared to the atmospheric pressure at floor level. There are several models of medical alert systems with fall detection on the market. Investigate the system that works best for your loved one.
Falls are a leading cause of injury, disability and death for older adults. Make sure your senior loved ones feel safe from falling.
Robert W. Bache (aka "Medicare Bob") is the founder and Chief of Sales for Senior Healthcare Direct, an AmeriLife company. As an independent insurance broker, Bache and his team provide unbiased assistance to current and soon-to-be Medicare beneficiaries — helping them navigate, compare and find the right Medicare plan options. Bache’s agency, Senior Healthcare Direct, works with 30-plus companies and has served tens of thousands of clients in more than 40 states.