Addressing Senior Fall Risk Before Seeking Emergency Care
Having a senior fall prevention plan is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as doctor’s visits, emergency services, and other resources have all changed to accommodate additional safety precautions.
Falls are a common cause of injury among seniors, and with snowy, icy weather approaching, now is the time to make a plan to keep aging loved ones safe.
Read on for risk factors and tips to keeping seniors safe as we approach the winter season, especially if your loved one is reluctant to admit their fears.
Factors that can increase fall risk
As we age, there are many naturally-occurring issues that can increase the likelihood of falling. Knowing these factors can help prevent falls and keep loved ones safe.
Here are some common concerns to address:
- Medications that have interactions or cause dizziness or dehydration
- Loss of balance and coordination due to inactivity
- Aging eyes means less light entering retina, which can make objects harder to see
- Lack of modifications in home to accommodate aging
- Chronic illness, diseases, or previous falls that resulted in injury
Observe loved ones in their environment
Notice how your loved ones are moving and getting around the home. Do they clutch your arm when you walk together? Are they grabbing onto furniture or having difficulty getting up out of a chair? Have they mentioned feeling light-headed after taking medications?
Seniors may understandably not want to share with you their fears of falling, or may not mention a recent fall that didn’t result in injury. This could be out of embarrassment or to avoid concern.
To gently bring up the discussion of fall risk, ask if they have any concerns about falling and how they are feeling. Ask if they have had any close encounters in recent months. Whether they respond openly or not, you still can offer to help them make appointments, gather medication information, and evaluate the home inside and out to make safety adjustments.
Tips for senior fall prevention
Talk to your loved one’s doctor
The first move in fall prevention can be a call to your loved one’s doctor. They likely will schedule a virtual or in-person appointment to evaluate your senior’s physical health, medications, and fall history.
To prepare for this appointment, make a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements your loved one is taking. Ask the doctor to evaluate them for interactions or side effects. Make sure to include everything, because herbal supplements, vitamins, or natural sleep aids can create side effects and drug interactions, too.
Add gentle exercise
Talk to the doctor about exercise once they have evaluated your loved one’s physical health. Even walks around the house or doing gentle movements can increase coordination and strength.
Based on your observations and the doctor’s, you can discuss if a physical or occupational therapist’s help might be necessary.
Keep your home lit and free of clutter — inside and out
Do a walk-through of your home indoors and outdoors to see what might cause trips and falls, and purchase additional lamps, nightlights, and light fixtures to keep walking areas bright.
Here are suggestions for senior fall prevention outside the home:
- Avoid going outside after snow and ice storms
- Keep sidewalks and driveways shoveled and salted
- Dress warmly and wear comfortable, non-skid shoes
- Hold on to your loved one’s arm when walking, and encourage a slow pace and use of rails
- Never rush, and make sure you leave plenty of time for errands and appointments
Here are tips for avoiding issues inside the home:
- Make everyday items easily accessible
- Keep floors clean of spills
- Tack down loose rugs
- Keep walk-through spaces open and clear of tables and plants
- Keep electrical cords away from walking spaces
- Use bath mats that grip and don’t slip
- Add a seat to the bathtub and handrail near the toilet
When assisted living might be necessary
If you find it’s difficult to keep your home as safe as it needs to be for your aging parents, especially if they are suffering from chronic illnesses or memory loss, it might be time to consider an assisted living community.
The Kensington promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. We welcome residents with all levels of care needs, from no needs to those needing memory care or specific care for a chronic illness.
We are taking every necessary precaution, not only during the coronavirus pandemic, but in every season. Your loved one will have customized 24-hour care, seven days a week, so that you can trust they will be in a safe, comfortable environment during the icy winter months and hot summer days.
Call us today so we can tell you more about our services and programs.
Recommended Additional Reading:
- Engaging with Senior Family Members This Holiday Season while Social Distancing
- The Challenge of Caregiving for Aging Parents
- Senior Safety: Planning Ahead Before a Health Scare
- Post-Acute Care After a Hospital Visit and Keeping Loved Ones Safe