Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care

Keeping home an option!

Preventing Falls

iStock_000003383345XSmallAll of us are at risk when it comes to unexpected falls, but the risk increases if we have unsafe conditions in our homes, we’re walking outside on uneven surfaces, we are taking medications that make us dizzy, or we’ve had surgery or another medical condition that increases the risk of falling. The elderly, especially those with dementia, have additional risk factors that loved ones or other caregivers need to be aware of and try to eliminate.

Prevention Post Surgery

Two bunion surgeries and the physical therapy exercises I was given afterward gave me a healthy respect for falling hazards and what I could do to keep from falling during recovery and in the future. One trick for managing stairs that I had to learn myself was “bad foot down first, good foot up first.”  That was after I got past the stage where I couldn’t put any weight on my “bad foot” and had to sit down while going up and down the stairs to my office, sliding the crutches down ahead of me! Even though it’s been almost 3 years since my second surgery, I’m still doing the balance and mobility exercises PT taught me. At age 70, I know that my ability to balance and move around safely is likely to diminish if I don’t work on maintenance. My friend who had two knee replacements, faced similar challenges and is also continuing her PT exercises, even though she’s fully recovered. It’s important for you or a loved one to do exercises that have a doctor’s approval and don’t increase the risk of falling.

Risk Prevention for the Elderly Living at Home

Falls are common in seniors living at home. Every year approximately 30 percent of seniors fall and 5 percent of those falls result in broken bones. Approximately 1 percent of seniors who fall will fracture a hip. Hip fractures have been shown to shorten life expectancy, lower the quality of life and increase the expense of caring for someone at home.*

It’s not possible to prevent all falls for an elderly patient or loved one, but there certainly are things we can do to decrease the risk of falling, some obvious, some you may not have thought of. Falling is a constant risk for my 94 year old father. Everyone in the family knows that a fall could greatly diminish the quality of his life. He still lives at home with his slightly younger wife. They have the following safeguards:

  1. No loose rugs
  2. Safety handles on either side of the door to their house, where they have to go up 2 steps
  3. Safety handles by the toilet and in the shower
  4. A urinal by the side of Dad’s bed so he doesn’t have to go far when getting up in the night
  5. A bedroom on the first floor and a low bed that enables his feet to touch the floor when he gets up
  6. A bar stool that he sits on to eat, making it easier for him to get up and down
  7. An emergency call button that he wears around his neck

Prevention through Exercise and Awareness

From time to time, Dad has had in-home PT, and he exercises his legs daily on a stationary device with pedals that he can use while sitting on any chair. His legs continue to get weaker, but we’re sure he would be even worse off without the exercise. Some risks we can warn him of, but others that he mostly has to be responsible for himself are:

  1. Turning too quickly
  2. Standing up suddenly after sitting or lying down without holding on to something
  3. Forgetting to use his cane
  4. Tripping over his oxygen cord or forgetting to use his oxygen (he suffers from pulmonary fibrosis)
  5. Forgetting to eat, especially a between-meal snack (he has Type 2 Diabetes)

Some additional hazards that you might need to be aware of include:

  1. A small household pet that gets underfoot
  2. Confusion caused by medication &/or dementia
  3. Poor lighting
  4. Walking barefoot or wearing shoes that don’t fit
  5. Worsening eyesight
  6. Coordination difficulties
  7. Water or ice on sidewalks or slippery floors

Maintaining Quality of Life

It only makes sense to try to prevent falls, whether the victim could be yourself, your elderly loved one, someone who is recovering from surgery or suffers from a debilitating illness. A fall that results in a broken bone can be very difficult for an elderly person to recover from. Unfortunately, some elderly patients who fall and are injured are not willing to put in the effort required to get their mobility back, and they give up on life. As caregivers and family members, removing hazards and encouraging other methods of prevention, such as exercising or regular vision screening, can help to ensure continued quality and length of life.

Some good sources for additional information on fall prevention and causes include:

*http://alzheimerscareathome.com/2011/09/how-to-prevent-falls-at-home-in-the-alzheimersdementia-patient/

http://www.healthcentral.com/alzheimers/c/57548/117492/falls-patients/

http://www.caring.com/questions/falling-on-way-to-bathroom

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000052.htm

by Marti Lythgoe, Freelance Writer & Editor

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    1. 25 Safety Hazards that Could Be in a Senior’s Home | Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care
    2. Looking for The Fountain of Youth: Seven Problems of Denial in the Elderly | Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care

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