Every year, a third of Americans over the age of 65 suffer a fall. Falls are the leading cause of injuries in seniors. Falling can result in a hip or knee replacement surgery, infections, and loss of mobility.
At Elmwood Hills Healthcare Center, our top-notch rehabilitation program helps fall victims get back to themselves as soon as possible. But we know the best thing when it comes to falling is preventing it from happening in the first place. Here are five ways you can help keep your parent or other elderly loved one safe from falls:
1. Clear out the clutter.
Whether it’s their own home or their room at a retirement center, seniors’ environments should be neat and clutter-free. The more things there are on the floor, the easier it is to trip. Some seniors tend to hoard old and useless items, but it can be hard for them to maneuver around stacks of magazines or lots of broken furniture. Help your parents arrange their living space to keep high-traffic areas clear of furniture and other obstacles.
2. Look out for tripping hazards and remove them.
Rugs that slide around too much, slippery bathroom tiles, shaky banisters—these are all things that can make a senior lose their balance and fall. Scope out your parents’ home and mark down anything that might cause falls. Then fix them. You can secure rugs with double-sided tape or tacks. Install grab bars and/or non-slip mats in the bathroom.
3. Keep the home well-lit, especially at night.
Darkness, or even just dim lighting, can hide the outlines of furniture or the shape of a step. The main areas of your elderly parents’ home should be well-lit, and the kitchen and bathroom should be lit all night in case they need something. Consider adding an illuminated light switch in the bedroom so your parent can find it to turn on the light if they need to.
4. Check eyesight and hearing.
Poor eyesight can cause more tripping and falling, and poor hearing can affect balance. Seniors should have regular sight and hearing tests. Make sure their eyeglasses prescriptions are up to date, and that they use hearing aids if necessary.
5. Examine other causes of poor balance.
There are certain medical conditions that cause sudden dizziness or weakness. For example, orthostatic hypotension is a condition in which your blood pressure can plunge as much as 20 points just from standing up. If you notice your mom or dad gets very dizzy when standing up, raise it with their doctor.
Some medications can also affect seniors’ balance. These include anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills and over-the-counter aids, seizure medications, and diabetes medications. If your loved one takes one of these types of drugs, and you’re concerned about their balance, speak with their doctor for advice.