The risk of falling increases as we advance in years. Failure to exercise on a regular basis decreases strength, loss of bone mass, and results in poor muscle tone and flexibility. The decrease in bone density contributes to falls and results in injuries. A good percentage of those who fall often seem to have another fall within six months. Falling also seems to be more common in women than in men. Often, falls in the elderly involve environmental hazards in the home. There are so many different things that contribute to falling among the elderly that we may not aware of. The fear of our loved one falling isn’t the only risk we must be concerned with. There are many preventative safety measures we can take in other areas to keep our loved ones safe as well. I will share with you some preventative tips on how we can keep our Elderly loved ones safe in their environment and how we can keep them healthy and thriving.
Our loved ones do seem to do better in their own home as they are more familiar with their surroundings which is preferred over an assisted living facility or any other alternative living environment. We all know there’s no place like home. Never-the-less, wherever our loved ones are living, we must help make their home as safe as possible. Falls are caused by what could be preventative risk factors. So to eliminate as many risk factors as possible, it is vital for the safety of your loved one. Many falls happen because of lack of knowledge or the fact that we just didn’t consider certain things to be a risk factor. It only takes one fall for our loved one to Instantly lose all independence.
Preventative measures to minimize and illuminate environmental hazards.
1. Throw rugs and runner rugs have been known to be one of the biggest fall risks. If you can, it would be best to remove them all together. If you want the rugs to stay, apply carpet tape on the back of them.
2. It is very important to remove any cords or wires that may be in their walking path.
3. To have a walking device, such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair to help with mobility is very helpful as well.
4. Reducing clutter and oversized furniture. We don’t want anything that is too heavy. If they hold on to it and it were to tip over and land on them, arrange furniture so that it would be easy to get around. Remove caster wheels off of furniture.
5. Be sure the commonly used items are within their reach.
6. Night lights should be plugged in throughout the home. Place grab bars in the areas where your loved one may be at risk of falling.
7. Be sure the contrast is different in service types or changes so your loved one can see where there may be a step or a level change.
8. Be sure there is a phone (cordless) in many places around the house, as well as close to their bed with emergency numbers at each phone.
9. Repair all cracks and edges, avoid polishing and waxing floors.
10. Place the non-skid mats into the bath tubs. Grab bars are extremely important for making getting in and out of the bathtub safely. Mount a liquid dispenser on the bathtub wall. This will keep them from having to worry about dropping the soap/shampoo. Installing a hand held shower head is great as well. Install a raised toilet seat. Also to be sure there is a non-skid mat on the floor so that the floor will not be slippery.
11. Be sure your loved ones’ bed is adjusted to get in and out of easily. Be sure a telephone is within reach and that there’s a firm chair with arms for them to sit and get dressed.
12. Trimming bushes, trees, etc. around the home that may be in a pathway is important.
13. In case your loved one has stairs, be sure they have a well-lit stair case and that there are tightly fastened hand rails on both sides of the stairs.
14. Be sure that your loved one has brakes on their walking device and show them how to use the brakes properly.
15. Using the stove can be a huge hazard. If your loved one is forgetful, you may need to be sure their food is prepared for them or have them store food that could be made in the microwave. Try to discourage space heaters. If they need to use one be sure that it has three prong that is properly grounded.
16. Plan an exit in case of an emergency such as a fire or flood. Explain to them what to do in case of an emergency even if you make signs for them. Direct them where to go and what to do.
Preventative measures to avoid med hazards
Be sure your elderly loved one has a med box that has been preset for them. Proper medications at the proper times is extremely important. This way, your loved one won’t have to shuffle through their prescription bottles and risk taking too many meds, expired meds, discontinued meds, or meds at the wrong times. Be sure you look into what meds are ok to crush. Not all meds should be crushed for they could be a time released med. You may have to administer the meds yourself or have a caregiver administer their meds.
I’ve have seen so many elderly end up in the hospital for improper med use or lack of. This can result in a rapid decline. As we advance in years, our health becomes compromised to the point of forgetfulness and we become confused where we just become unable to think for ourselves. This is where extra care from the family and caregivers becomes vital to the viability of our loved ones.
Keeping your Elderly loved ones’ med box in a place that would not be in reach of your loved one is important. Those who may be administering their meds are aware of the location.
1. Talk to your loved ones’ physician about ways to reduce the risks of having a fall by using a lower and effective dosage and being sure you have your loved one regularly assessed.
2. Educate yourself regarding the most common side effects of the meds your loved one is taking.
3. Remove all of the expired medications from the home.
4. Be sure you are aware of any alcohol consumption for many times this could interact with medication.
5. Be aware of the intake of Antidepressants for this may reduce mental alertness.
6. Pay attention to the intake of multiple medications for this can contribute to a risk of falling.
Improving Health and Decreasing the Risk of Falls Through a Healthy Diet
I cannot stress enough how important a good healthy diet is.
A proper diet is vital to live a longer and healthier life. Being sure our elderly loved ones have a proper diet is extremely important in lowering the risk of falling. With a proper diet, they will get the calcium, vitamin D, many other vitamins, nutrients and proteins to keep them strong and flexible.
1. Water intake is important.
2. Foods that are high in protein such as cheese, peanut butter, almonds, yogurts, vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens, soybeans, turnip greens, Chicken, fish and much more.
3. Vitamin D is a fantastic supplement and we are now learning the great importance of a proper vitamin D diet. Please consult the patients physician to learn the dose requirements for it may vary per individual.
Preventing Fall Risks Through Exercise
Exercise plays a big factor is thriving among the elderly. Failing to do so will result in poor muscle tone, decreased strength, loss of bone mass and flexibility. These things will contribute to falls and severity in injuries.
1. Taking small walks around the home or short walks to the mail box.
2. Have them do small tasks around the home.
3. Have your loved one get involved in an exercise program geared towards the elderly.
4. Take your loved one window shopping to keep them moving and enjoying themselves.
We had a client who was independent for the most part. She ended up tripping over something in her home. When she had fallen, she broke her ankle. This resulted in a rapid decline and within two weeks she ended up on hospice. This is such a tough thing to watch and completely unfortunate. She didn’t have any assistance in being sure she was eating properly, exercising, managing her med intake, or taking proper precautions of the possible hazards and risk factors in her home. I want to be sure that we are aware of the snowball effect that could take place by not taking these precautions.
Often times most people haven’t been educated in this area and didn’t realize what could be considered to be a risk factor. We have witnessed the amazing benefits of implementing these safety precautions. Let’s get started on minimizing risk factors and keeping our elderly loved ones safe.
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