According to the CDC, falling is the leading cause of injury and injury death each year for adults 65 and over. The older someone gets, the greater their likelihood of a fall.
A simple fall can be the start of more serious problems. It can mean the end of independent living. So the goal of every older American should be to do whatever it takes to not fall.
And yet, clients – especially seniors – can be resistant. And no wonder: Some of the protections against falls affect the way their homes look and feel, and their picture of who they are.
It’s hard to age, and caregivers should be sensitive to that. In fact, advocating for safety measures may not be appreciated – at least at first. But here are some actions the caregiver might take to decrease the client’s risk of falling.
Encourage your client to exercise
Help your client go on the offensive: Physical activity makes muscles stronger and helps improve flexibility and balance. Those three things decrease the risk of falls. The CDC says everyone should exercise at least 150 hours a week, including seniors. Take your client on walks; encourage them to go to tai chi, yoga, or water aerobics.
Gently help your clients adjust their attitudes about a few things
Studies show that women fall more often than men. To avoid being a statistic, your female clients may need to put away their flip flops and party shoes and learn to love sensible, non-skid styles. Also, as they age, both men and women can be resistant when their doctors or families say it’s time to use a cane or walker. Many families get embroiled in months of tense conversations about that. But the caregiver, who’s there every day helping, can sometimes find a way to break through.
Help make the home safer
Is there clutter on the floor you can help your client sort through, or at least move out of the traffic pattern? Are there loose rugs that need to be tacked down or replaced? Does your client need lights for dark halls and corners, and nightlights for the bedroom or bathroom? What would make their tub and shower safer? A non-skid mat? A grab bar? Both?
Check in with your client about what’s going on with their body
Prescription or over-the-counter medications can trigger falls if the meds make your client dizzy or sleepy. So can vision issues. If any of those symptoms occur, let the family or a doctor know.
Perhaps your client needs to be reminded to slow down
Some people tend to get light-headed if they stand up too fast. If so, encourage them to pause a minute and stand up more slowly. Also, be sure to remind them to tread cautiously if they have foot pain or a chronic condition that affects their balance or gait.
Some clients may need to be taking additional medical steps
All women should ask their physician about being screened and treated for osteoporosis; so too should men with a history of fractures, or men who took steroids for a period of time. This won’t help with fall prevention, but good bone health does impact the risk of fracture when there is a fall. And this brings up a related issue: the need for your client to get enough calcium and Vitamin D every day. Everyone should follow nutritional guidelines for good bone health, but women are particularly vulnerable.
Statistics show that 3 million seniors wind up in the ER every year for fall injuries. Your client doesn’t want to be one!