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Fall risks are sometimes simple, yet fatal

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
November 16, 2018

Fall risks are sometimes as simple (yet fatal) as an unsupervised walker.  

Often times, seniors are, by nature, too proud to speak up or show that they need assistance with the most basic tasks – like walking, transferring to/from a chair or bed, standing for several minutes at a time, getting dressed, making meals, carrying the laundry basket or groceries, etc.   

Similarly, their children are too generous in assessing these mobility issues, fall risks and care needs. Perhaps they are afraid to hurt their aging loved one’s feelings or attack their pride.   

So, setting up care is postponed. The senior falls and barely recovers any of his or her mobility after months spent in hospitals and rehab facilities and is then transferred to a skilled nursing facility for the remainder of his or her life. 

Sound ridiculous, right? Won’t ever happen to your loved one, right?   

Wrong. According to the United States CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths for Americans 65 years and older.

Think about your aging loved one. Can he or she...  

Remember and follow an exercise regimen to maintain (or rebuild) strength?

Maintain a nutritious diet?

Remember and follow any specific dietary restrictions (e.g., low sodium, fat or sugar)?

Take his/her medications properly (i.e., as prescribed)?

Gauge when she/he is at risk for falls - as in, when she/he is too tired or hot, surface conditions are slippery or she/he truly needs to be using an assistive device? ​  

Inevitably mobility issues increase a senior’s risk of falls. Assisted devices such as canes and walkers do make walking safer and more comfortable for your aging loved one. These devices when used properly, can offer huge benefits and freedom. Walkers and canes should be fitted to a senior’s individual needs and heights. Occupational therapists or physical therapists are the ones to inquire with which support device is best for your loved ones and they can ensure the best fit for them adjusting for their reach and height.

The benefits of these devices:

Improved balance when walking

Reduces pain from mobility 

Safer walking

Increased confidence which in turn offers more freedom and independence.  

Outdoor falls

While preventing falls within the home are so critical, applying those actions outdoors is equally important. Many aging adults will make use of their walking devices, cane, walkers etc. in the home behind closed doors, yet pride and ego changes that once the front door threshold is crossed. The environment is much more controlled inside the home when ambulating, where outdoors the walk ways are often not level, there are stairs to maneuver without banisters, different width passageways etc.  

Unfortunately, some people over 60 lose sight beyond the normal, age-related vision changes. Other visual factors, such as poor depth perception, limited side vision, extreme sensitivity to lights and glare, and reduced color perception, can also limit a person’s ability to do everyday tasks. This too can be the simple cause of a bad fall with a not so positive outcome for an aging adult.

Be Aware of your surroundings

When walking in the evening, be sure to walk where there is plenty of light to illuminate your path.

Keep your eyes open for obstructions in your path such as cracks or holes in the pavement, tree roots that buckle the pathway, and leaves that are wet, can be very slippery.

Be sure your loved one has on proper eyewear such as glasses or sunglasses to reduce glare. Even on overcast days, eye sensitively can limit visibility and cause a fall.

Exercise extreme caution during inclement weather, such as rain and fog or in recent weeks, smoke.

Travel safely

Encourage your aging loved one to go at their own pace. Hurrying one along often adds an additional risk when mobility is already compromised. Vehicles often turn corners quickly and can surprise someone unstable on their feet. 

In parking lots and garages be aware of curbs and slight changes in elevations.

Handrails should always be used while taking public transportation such as buses or trains.  Keep your eye on footing where the gap is when walking from platform to train.   

Most aging adults prefer home care services because they wish to hold onto something many cherish, regardless of age- their independence. Home care does allow seniors to remain in their homes and continue to practice their daily routines in their familiar surroundings. Don’t be fooled, the leading cause of injury deaths, unintentional injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, are falls which present a threat to senior’s independence as well as to their lives.

Connect America West is the parent company to the leader in Emergency Medical Alert systems which offers a suite of emergency alert products, catering to the aging population across the United States.  The emergency medical alert systems are strategically designed for easy emergency access for seniors who are often home alone and for seniors who are more active and on the go.

These emergency medical alert systems offer state of the art GPS technology. The mobile alert technology can track their clients no matter where they are located, 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Their clients can roam freely indoors or out--without the concern of a fall resulting in them laying on the ground without being found for a duration of time in the event they cannot get up themselves and require help.  Call my office at 707.586.1516 for a 60-day free trial of this Connect America West Emergency Alert System.   My goal is to help our community of aging adults in Rohnert Park and surrounding Sonoma County, remain safely living independent as long as possible where ever they call home!

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.