According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year 3 million mature individuals (age 65+) are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries. From 2007 to 2016, the rate for deaths from falling for this demographic increased by 30 percent and is still rising. While the topic of fall safety may not seem dire or important, annual statistics such as these say otherwise.
As the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for Americans age 65 and older, it’s important to MediQuest Staffing & Homecare to help educate you and your family about ways to keep your loved ones safe. By understanding the problem and identifying ways to prevent falling, we hope that these simple tips will help to reduce the risk of injury for you or your family.
Major Contributors to Fall Risk
The first step in fall prevention is understanding what some of the major risk factors are in these types of accidents. Just because you or someone you know is getting older, it does not mean it is an inevitable result of aging. By educating yourself and following a few tips, you can reduce the risk of falling.
As we age, most people understand that there will likely be physical and mental changes to our bodies and general health. Whether you have a pre-existing condition or are maybe on a new medication, make sure to take these factors into consideration before assessing fall risk. Similarly, taking steps to make sure vision prescriptions are up to date is essential when trying to reduce the risk of injuries.
When seniors have vision issues such as cataracts or myopia, having proper lighting in the home is essential for fall prevention. If the environment is too dark, poor vision can obscure obstacles and make areas too difficult to navigate. On the other hand, rooms that are too bright from sunlight or lamps can cause glare issues that can increase the risk for falls as well.
Even on a good day, most of us at any age have tripped over a shoe in the middle of the floor or got caught up on the corner of a rug. For the elderly, keeping these risks as well as any additional ones in mind when organizing an environment is extremely important. Electrical cords, loose floorboards, or even things like furniture may need to be reorganized in order to make navigation around the home easier and safer.
Believe it or not, the clothing that you wear also can play a part in fall risks. If clothing is too loose, it has the potential to get caught on corners or furniture or even tangled up in your legs. When clothing is too tight, the excessive body heat and tightness can restrict blood flow which may cause lightheadedness or a slight reduction in motor skills. In addition, not wearing proper footwear can increase the risk of injury from either slipping or tripping.
How to Prevent Fall Injuries Before They Happen
Now that you understand some of the causes and risks around fall injuries, MediQuest has a few simple tips to help you proactively take charge of your health. By following these steps and educating yourself and your loved ones, you can help us spread fall prevention awareness and reduce the risk of injury.
1: Talk with Your Doctor
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to talk to your primary care physician about evaluating your risk for falling. Ask them to review your medications, assess your health conditions, and have your vision checked annually to build your own fall prevention program. Now is also the time to discuss any previous falls you may have had and ask about taking vitamin D and calcium supplements to lower hip fracture risk if you ever do fall.
2: Stay Active with Balance & Exercise Programs
Physical activity is essential for any age group, but as you get older, doing light exercises that increase your leg strength and improve your balance is extremely beneficial. Low stress exercises like walking or yoga are great activities that will go a long way in preventing falls. If you keep from exercising because of fear of falling, consider doing water workouts that will help improve coordination and flexibility. Before doing any exercises though, make sure you talk to your doctor about finding the best type of physical activity.
3: Wear the Right Footwear
If you’re prone to walking around your house in slippers or socks, it may be time to consider a wardrobe change. Footwear like high heels, flip flops, slippers, or stockings can cause you to stumble, slip, and inevitably fall. Make sure that your shoes fit properly and do not have any slippery soles to prevent any kind of injury. If you don’t like wearing shoes inside the house, make sure you find socks or slippers that have proper grips on the bottom to help reduce the risk of falls.
4: Organize Your Living Space
Your home is likely full of many tripping hazards that you may not even be aware of. Here are just a few things you can do to help clear pathways:
- Remove Obstacles from Walkways: Phone cords, shoes, benches, or something else entirely can cause tripping accidents at any turn. Keep things in their proper place to not only reduce the risk of accidents, but to also keep your home nice and organized.
- Secure Loose Rugs: Turned up corners or frayed rug edges are easy to trip over for anyone. For elderly individuals with reduced mobility, it’s even more of a risk. Secure rugs with double sided tape or remove them entirely.
- Store Items in Easy to Reach Areas: This one is pretty straightforward—if you use an item frequently, don’t put it at the top of the stairs or somewhere else where you can trip over it or fall when trying to reach it. Be smart about where you put things when organizing your home for fall prevention.
5: Use Assistive Devices
Installing assistive devices is another great fall prevention method you can implement into your home. Having two railings (one on each side of the stairwell) is a great way to feel more secure when going up and down stairs, and you can install nonslip treads on steps for even more security. There are also a few improvements you can add to your bathroom to help such as a raised toilet seat with armrests, more grab bars around the shower or tub, a walk-in tub, or adding a sturdy plastic seat inside the shower.
Having a Plan If You Fall
Despite all of your planning and fall prevention methods that you’ve put into place, you or your loved one still could have an accident. The best steps you can take are to educate yourself and your family on what the best steps are if it happens.
If a fall happens to you, the first (and hardest) thing to do is to not panic. To keep yourself from further injury, try to remain calm and properly assess the situation. If you have a medical alert system device, now’s the time to use it, even if you don’t think you’re injured. If you think you can get up and don’t feel pain when you try to move, roll onto your side and pull yourself toward a sturdy object. If you don’t think you can get up and are not near a phone or medical alert device, try calling out for help and making noise until assistance arrives.
When you’re worried about a loved one falling, take steps to get them set up with a cell phone or medical alert system so they have a way of contacting you if something happens. In addition, make sure you frequently check on them via house visits or phone calls to make sure they’re alright.
No matter what your situation, the most important thing you can do is to find a fall preventive plan that works for you and your family. If you need advice or feel more comfortable seeking help from a medical professional, consider hiring homecare services like MediQuest to assist with your needs.
At MediQuest, we specialize in providing homecare services throughout Lancaster County, PA and will work with you and your loved one to give both of you the comfort and peace of mind that you need. When you work with us, the worry about unattended fall injuries will be significantly reduced as we work together to meet your individualized care needs. Contact us today for more information or to discuss more about your service needs.