How to Prevent the Elderly from Falling at Home

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A True Story About an Elderly Man Who Fell at Home

A young lady arrived home from school one day, just in time to find her grandfather lying on the floor. He was lying(at the bottom of the stairway)with blood oozing from a head wound. The panic girl shouted hysterically for help, and immediately, one of her next door neighbors rushed over to see what the problem was. Approximately 15 minutes later, the ambulance got to the house and rushed the old man to the hospital.

Luckily, his granddaughter was sent home from school earlier than usual that day (due the common cold),because the old man could have bled to death. Apparently, her frail grandpa was on his way down the stairs when an already broken railing he was holding on to for support gave way. The poor old man went crashing down several flights of steps, before landing on the hardwood floor. As a result of the fall, he unfortunately opened a gash in his head and also fractured his right hip.

I was at work when my friend called me and told me that he, his wife, and daughter were at the hospital with his dad. I could hardly believe my ears when he told me this sad story!

CDC Falls Statistics

Falls Statics Among the Elderly
Falls Statics Among the Elderly | Source

Statistical Findings

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),in 2010, falls among older adults cost the U.S. health care system $30 billion in direct medical

costs, when adjusted for inflation. Due to aging population, both the number of falls and the costs to treat fall injuries are likely to increase.

One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year. Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death. Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes. In 2011, emergency departments treated 2.4 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults; more than 689,000 of these patients had to be hospitalized.

This is indeed a serious problem that needs urgent attention. For this reason, I have decided to put together a list of some of the main reasons most seniors kept falling at home, and steps that may be taken to address this ongoing problem that has been putting a tremendous amount of stress not only on the elderly and family, but also on the country's healthcare budget.

How many people 65 and older fall each year?

  • 1 out of 5
  • 1 out of 3
  • 1 out of 10
See results without voting

Problems

These are some of the main reasons the older adults are falling:
1.Broken or worn steps/Broken or missing railings
2.Throw rugs/carpets
3.Clutter
4.Regularly used items being stored out of reach
5.Slippery bathroom floor, bathtub or shower
6.A decline in vision
7.Inappropriate footwear
8.Poor lighting
9.Medications
10.Illnesses(causing periodic block-outs)
11.Being weak or very frail

Solutions

BROKEN STEPS and RAILINGS
It is very important that you frequently check for (worn or broken steps and railings), and get them repaired as soon as possible.

Carpets and Rugs
In regard to carpets, torn or worn-out carpets should be replaced as soon as possible, and if you use rugs, it's highly recommended that you use those with a non-skid back.

Clutter
Always keep hallways clutter-free, and try to arrange furniture to allow ample walking space. Also, make sure that all pathways are free of obstacles such as footwear, electrical cords, telephone directories, magazines, newspaper etc. Items that need to be stored on shelves should not be placed out of reach.

Regularly Used Items
A rule of thumb: Store items within reach, between hip and eye level. If you have to do any reaching, never try to stand on a chair, footstool, or any unsteady/non-sturdy object, especially if your balance if off. You should instead, invest in a long handled “Reacher” to reach for things that are stored too high or too low.

SLIPPERY BATHROOM FLOORS
There are several ways to avoid or minimize the risks of falling in the bathroom, bathtub or shower. You can have grab bars installed in the shower or even next to the tub or toilet. It's also a good idea to install non-skid resistant strips or rubber mats in your bathtubs or shower. Wearing Non-skid shoes is also another good idea.

VISION
Get your eyes checked regularly. Also, always use your prescribed eye drops, as directed, and keep glasses on at all times, if you are advised to do so. Due to a decline in vision, it's best to install lighting at the top and bottom of stairway. It's also a good idea to place nightlights in the bathroom, and make sure you keep a charged flashlight close by the bed at all times, in case of an emergency.

FOOTWEAR
Wear only footwear that fits comfortably(not those that are too spacious or much larger than your feet). Also, avoid wearing high heels and worn-out footwear.

Example of a Portable Medical Alert Device

Medical Alert System

If you are living alone or frequently home alone, prone to falling (due to being too frail or weak), have been experiencing periodic block-outs (caused by medications or an illness), you are strongly encouraged to get a Medical Alert system. If my friend's dad had had a Medical Alert System( wearing around his neck) when he fell, for example, all he had to do was simply press one button and the emergency alert team would have been there immediately. Unfortunately, because he didn't have one in his possession, he had to lie on that floor for more than two hours bleeding. Luckily, his granddaughter came home early that day.

Conclusion

I have been working at a medical facility(sub-acute unit) for over 12 years, and fall awareness/preventions is among one of the many education programs that I have been involved in. Over the years, from what we have learned from a lot of the older patients who have sometimes experienced multiple falls, most of them are either living alone, or were usually home alone during the daytime, when they fell.

It's very important that we(everyone), all take the initiative to provide a safer living environment for the elderly. This is one of the reasons I also stress on the importance of a Medical Alert System.

(c)By I.W.McFarlane 20014

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