A caregiving journey is riddled with challenges, and the one you’ll encounter often is the danger of elder injuries.
Although the statistics do vary from country to country, you’re almost certainly dreading the consequences of a fall if the senior you’re responsible for has reached the age of sixty-five. Once they cross this age-threshold, such injuries can permanently alter their lifestyle or even prove to be fatal.
To minimize the risk and rest assured, you’ll need to take action by adopting these fall prevention tips for the elderly at home.
Information IS Prevention
While the European statistics appear to vary, the state of things in the US is quite clear across the board – and it paints a bleak picture:
One in four seniors age 65 and up fall each year. Once every 11 seconds, a senior is rushed into the emergency room because of a fall, and every 19 minutes, one elderly person dies from a fall-related injury.
And yet, you’ll find plenty of seniors (and their caregivers) who don’t find this a pressing issue, focusing instead on the numerous health concerns that only appear to be more dramatic. This is why spreading the word about fall prevention IS a form of prevention, though practical tips remain invaluable.
Secure the Bathroom
Bathrooms can be a hazardous area even for capable individuals such as yourself. Wet floors and slippery counters are injury hot zones, where accidents are only waiting to happen.
Because of some typical health conditions that come with age (poor vision, impaired mobility, etc.), seniors lack the reaction time, as well as the balance to avoid a serious injury if they start slipping.
For starters, you can cover the entire bathroom floor as well as the shower base with rubber no-slip mats. These are fairly affordable and practical. Attaching firm grab-bars onto the walls is also a sound line of thinking, though they may be a bit more costly.
You can also purchase a cheap portable shower seat, which can make a world of difference to the senior.
Have Everything on One Floor
Stairs are a terrible hazard, which is why you should make it your mission to render them obsolete. Ensure that seniors in your care have everything they need within hand’s reach. You may need to make some changes to the layout to create a more compact space.
Put their living room, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom all on one plane – preferably the first floor of the house. That way, they’ll also have easy access to the back lawn or a porch, where they can catch some fresh air and sunshine.
On the other hand, if the senior under your care has to use the stairs, a stairlift is the best solution you’ll possibly find. Handrails are fine, but they simply don’t minimize the risk of a fall as efficiently as a stairlift does.
Attach Emergency Buttons Near Hot Zones
Wi-fi powered emergency buttons are a dime a dozen these days. You can purchase three or four of attachable types and place them at ankle-height in the vicinity of the injury hot zones such as the bathroom, stairs, and home entrance.
That way, if the senior were to make an unfortunate slip and fall, they can immediately press the button and alert the local ER.
Declutter the Household
A household full of clutter is a minefield of danger for someone with poor vision and mobility. Your duty is not to merely clear it of useless paraphernalia, but also to take a good hard look at the furniture.
What does your senior need? What is necessary to make their life easier, and what is simply there for its sentimental value? An extra side stool, a superfluous divan, or an extra coffee table is just one more obstacle that might lead to injury.
If you need to have a hard conversation about ‘favorite chairs’ and ‘nightstands that have a history,’ just power through it and help them understand how and why these objects pose a potential risk. Furthermore, they’ll feel better emotionally if they dwell in a more spacious, airier environment that’s not visually overwhelming.
Lastly, the decluttering effort also goes for all extension cords that stretch across the floor of the senior’s home. Don’t forget to get rid of them or, at the very least, tape them along the walls.
Seniors who are physically active are less prone to any kind of injury. With a spring in their step and enough strength, they can retain some of the necessary agility and reflexes to prevent injury themselves in the case of a slip.
This is why you should make it your priority to encourage them to go on long strolls or even sign them up for yoga classes at the nearest studio. Pilates can also do them good. Whichever activity seems most attractive to them, your job is to convince them that they have to keep moving to stay healthy and happy.
There are certain predictability factors that you can watch out for when it comes to the risk of falls in seniors. For example, preexisting medical issues should be a red flag for you – especially if they entail cognitive or sensory impairment.
You can use all the tips mentioned above and put them to good practical use to prevent a serious injury or worse. The good news is that the probability decreases dramatically with every precaution you take. It’s all a part of helping seniors age in place gracefully and safely.