We as certified geriatric care managers all hear about older adults falling. Caregivers often do not expect their own loved one to have an accident at or around home. The simple fact is, however, that about 20 percent of adults over age 65 will have a fall in any given year. Sadly, most fall can be prevented with some simply safety precautions:
- The Feet aren’t Fit. Yes, it is true that a lot of falls happen because there are hazards all over an older adult’s house, but falls are not inevitable. De-conditioning happens in older adults who do not really exercise their balance and their gait. They become less nimble, and you can see it in the “elder shuffle” many of them manifest. You may not be able to help them dance again, but you can get rid of worn carpet or what we call “shatter rugs,” or scatter rugs. For an older person who does not lift their feet, these can be a fall waiting to happen.
- Other Hazards. Anything on the floor and potentially in traffic can be a fall hazard. Look for uneven surfaces, footstools, electrical cords, stairs and similar clutter on the floor. You don’t need to make your older loved one’s home a sterile and barren place, but you can clear the traffic routes to eliminate risks before they become a broken hip.
- Line of Sight. If they cannot see it, they will fall on it. Older vision inevitably becomes less acute, but sight also can be obscured by cataracts, macular degeneration or other conditions of older eyes. You can address some of this by seeing that they have annual vision tests and necessary upgrades in their eye wear as well as enhanced lighting throughout the house.
- Medication Side Effects. Many medicines have side effects that cause dizziness or low blood pressure upon standing. While their main effect may be necessary, the side effects can make navigating an otherwise safe path incredibly difficult. Talk to the health care provider about any side effects and ask about reduced doses or a change in meds altogether.
Charlotte Bishop is founder of Creative Care Management, a team of geriatric care managers, certified professionals, advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.