Preventing Injuries in the Elderly Resulting from Falls
Falls at any age can be dangerous, but particularly so for the elderly. Not only because they can result in serious injuries, but because advanced age, and myriad health issues that are typically present at this stage of life, can complicate recovery or even increase the risk of death. So, the importance of preventing this leading cause of injury cannot be understated. Many elderly patients of chiropractic and orthopedic clinics are there as a result of injuring from falling, injuries which can largely be prevented with certain precautions in place. While there is no way to 100 percent bullet-proof your elderly loved one from ever experiencing a fall, these health care professionals note there are several steps you can take to minimize that risk as much as possible.
Importance of Physical Activity
Getting up from chairs and walking require muscle strength and balance—two things that can be maintained with regular exercise. There can be various obstacles between the elderly and good physical fitness, but they can be overcome. It is also important to remember that at this stage of life, it is not about being able to run a marathon or do sprints. It is about keeping the body active and moving, and this can be accomplished with gentler forms of exercise. It can be something as simple as walking around the block or taking a tai chi or water aerobics class at the local gym. Experiment with different types of activities to see which ones your loved one responds best to. You might also consider talking to a physical therapist who can design a custom exercise program that is safe and effective.
Go Over Medications with Your Loved One’s Doctor
As we age, our health problems increase. Elderly people are often taking several medications at once to address various conditions. Drug combinations can result in numerous side effects and risks, including falls. Some drugs may make a fall more likely, like sedatives—this is particularly true of patients that suffer from dementia or other conditions that impair cognitive function. Certain medications may cause orthostatic hypotension ( a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing that causes dizziness), a common cause of falls in the elderly. Examples include diuretics, vasodilators, ACE-inhibitors, alpha blockers, beta blockers and tricyclic antidepressants.
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate risks related to medications, you may be able to make some changes that reduce it. See if changing medications or adjusting dosages is possible. The doctor should perform regular assessments to determine if your loved one requires continued use of any of the medicines she is taking. Monitor alcohol intake.
Environmental hazards account for 1/3 of falls in the elderly. Making changes to the home that reduce the risk seems obvious, but something many people may not do thoroughly enough. It can be challenging to look at the house from the perspective of an elderly person; as a healthy person who does not have to worry about falling at any given moment, you may not notice all the areas where danger lurks. A consultation with an occupational therapist can be immensely helpful. She can walk through the home and offer specific suggestions on how to make it safer.
Start with the outside. Repair any cracks in the sidewalks, steps or driveway. Get railings if you do not already have them. If you have shrubbery along the path to your door, keep it trimmed well. Keep walkways clear of clutter. Install bright lighting leading to the doors. Remove throw rugs. Keep clutter to a minimum. Consider installing motion-sensor lights in the home so that the area will light up when your loved one enters it, or get night lights. Put grab bars near the toilet and in the bathtub. Put non skid mats or appliqués on the floor of the tub or shower. Get a portable, hand-held shower head. Do not polish or wax the kitchen floor. Keep commonly used items in easy reach. Do not have electrical cords sticking out where someone can trip over them. Place brightly colored tapes on the edge of steps so your loved one can easily distinguish where they begin and end.
About the Author:
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of topics related to elder care, from how to evaluate senior care communities to keeping the elderly safe in the home.