Do you know how kinesiologists refer to walking…at least some of them with whom I have spoken? (These are the folks who specialize in the mechanics of body movement.) They call it “controlled falling,” and we can really appreciate this if we look at toddlers just beginning their first adventures with “walking” upright…it is mostly a series of failed attempts at walking that initially end mostly in falls. Fortunately for toddlers they are built pretty close to the ground, so the falls rarely inflict any real damage. Not so with older adults.
June is National Safety Month, which makes it a perfect time to highlight one of the bigger health risks among those 65 years of age and older: falls. And this is a good time to underscore the scope of the risk. Like, one in four older adults has a fall each year, but only about one in two of these are ever reported to their physicians. Yet, over three million of these episodes each year are seriously enough for the individual to end up in the emergency room owing to a resulting head or hip injury. By the way, more than one in four of these ER visits result in a hospital stay owing to a fracture or contusion or worse.
If you have an older loved one, don’t wait for the phone call; here are some simple steps you can take to assess your care receiver’s risk as well as help bolster their safety:
- Assess your loved one’s risk for falling using the CDC’s questionnaire;
- Make certain your loved one gets an annual eye exam, and keep their glasses (if needed) are current with their vision;
- If you accompany them to their doctor visit, ask about their feet, posture, leg strength and agility;
- Help assess and address any clutter or other safety issues in your loved one’s “space,” and remember that a lot of this revolves around lighting and ease of access.
This last one has a lot to it. If you would like, we have a home safety checklist that you can use to identify potential trouble spots in your loved one’s house. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you a copy. You may have noticed that I have nearly 600 postings in this blog. Please just type in “home safety” or “fitness” in the search box on the Blog…or any other keywords that are top of mind for you about your loved one’s safety. So, let’s all end this month with a spring into summer, not a fall.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.