As we grow older, we become more vulnerable to serious injuries from falls. In Singapore, about one third of seniors above the age of 60 experiences recurring falls as shared by the Health Promotion Board. Most of these falls occur at home and have serious consequences. In seniors, tripping and falling at home is a leading cause of hip fractures, forearm fractures and traumatic brain injuries.
The Impact of a Fall on an Elderly Person
The impact to an older person from a bad fall is significant. In addition to the physical pain, cost and inconvenience, elderly people experience additional consequences. They are likely to suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, osteoporosis and other complications which are likely to make it harder for them to recover, and more likely for the fall to lead to permanent or reduced immobility.
There are also psychological consequences. Elderly victims of a fall may feel frustrated by their loss of independence and possibly develop a fear of falling and increased dependency and clinginess to family members. The combination of a loss in confidence and reduced mobility may also have a negative effect on their social lives and overall sense of self-esteem.
Fortunately, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of falls in the elderly. Here are some steps which you can take.
Encourage the senior members of your family to exercise. As we grow older, we become weaker and less flexible, making it harder for us to balance and recover from a trip or a mis-step. Gentle stretching and strengthening sports such as yoga, tai chi, or even a regular stretching regime followed by a brisk walk in the park will go a long way towards helping them to avoid falls and to recover better after a fall.
As we age our eyes age too. Cataracts, long sightedness and other vision related issues might prevent older members of your family from seeing that the ground is uneven, or a step is coming up, or a child’s toy is now on the 3rd step of the staircase. Missing these visual cues often results in a fall and an injury.
Some medications make you dizzy or affect your vision after you take them. Discuss the side effects of the medications which elder members of the family need to take with your family doctor. If you are aware that there are possible side effects, explain these to your family members and suggest that after taking the medication, that they should rest or lie down for an appropriate period of time before getting up to do something active.
This almost goes without saying, but it never hurts to repeat it. Remove clutter from the house. Don’t allow books, papers, cushions, toys, tools, shoes or any other items to accumulate on the floors of the house.
Install Hand Rails and Grab Bars
Place hand rails and grab bars in places like the showers, toilets and staircases of your home. You should install these in any place that you think your older loved ones might need a bit of extra support.
Make Things Accessible
Take a look at all the items which your older family members need to use and move them to shelves and cupboards which they can reach easily. Don’t place items on shelves which they might need to reach up for or use a step ladder to get to.
Install More Lights
Look around your home and ensure that it is well-lighted. Make sure that light switches are easy to find and use. In vulnerable areas such as staircases and bathrooms, you might even want to consider automatic motion-sensor enabled lights.
Falls have serious consequences for older family members.
- Many falls occur at home and it is worth taking stock of your home and making changes to prevent falls.
- Look at more than just making your home safe, look also at ways to help senior members avoid falls through regular exercise, eye checks and an understanding of the medications they take on a regular basis.
Here are some useful links that provides more information on Preventing Falls and Programmes for Eldercare
Here's a useful video from Health Promotion Board to help prevent falls for the elderly.
Tags: Caregiving /Elderly Care /Health Matters