Fall Prevention in the Elderly: A Guide
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In this guide, we discuss a topic that becomes more of a concern when we age. Having a fall can cause more damage and distress as we get older, particularly for those who live alone.
There are plenty of steps you can take to prevent falls at home, which can give you peace of mind if your loved one is living independently.
As we age, the risk of long-term injuries from a fall can increase slightly. This is because we become frailer as we age; breaking bones can lead to a long and painful recovery, which can limit your mobility further. In this guide we’ll discuss some helpful pointers that can help avoid a fall at home.
How dangerous is a fall for an elderly person?
Depending on the nature of the fall, an elderly person can be seriously affected; from fractured hips to head trauma, to a loss of confidence. This loss of confidence can mean elderly people feel like a burden, if they are limited with what they can do day to day. Their routine can be disrupted, and if they now have to rely on others for basic tasks, then it becomes as irksome as it is a risk.
Another factor that we’ve touched on is recovery time. Recovering from an injury can take a lot of mental effort and time, and this only increases as we get older. To minimise long-term damage and reduce the risk of a fall in the first place, let’s take a look at the main causes of falls in the elderly.
Causes of falls in the elderly
The cause of a fall can be quite a simple one, such as having bad balance, weak muscles, poor eyesight, or living with a long-term health condition. Heart conditions, low blood pressure and dementia can attribute to confusion or physical weakness that can result in a fall.
Other external factors that can cause falls include:
- Slippery surfaces
- Bad lighting
- Electric cabling
- Unsecured rugs and carpets
- Badly organised storage areas
- Crowded corridors
Other causes can be from outdoor work such as gardening, walking to or from the shops, or house maintenance work.
If you think that your elderly loved one is at risk of falling badly, you have a few options. Depending on the wider situation, it may be appropriate to consider a live-in carer.
For a short-term solution, consider typical hazards throughout the home that need to be addressed and removed as soon as possible.
What to do if an elderly person falls down
If an elderly person does fall, then it is important to try and assess how serious it is early on. Ask your loved one or relative if they are in pain, and do your best to make them comfortable. If they are in any way struggling, then either professional help in the form of a carer, or paramedic, may be needed. If it seems serious, call the emergency services on 999. Whilst examining them for injuries look for any bruises or bleeding and ask them if they are experiencing any pain, where the pain is located, and how severe it is. Do not try to move them if they appear seriously hurt, the emergency response team will be better equipped to deal with it.
If they are not badly hurt and there is no need to call emergency services, then you can help them up from the floor gently and calmly.
We’ve laid out some helpful tips below.
- Start by rolling them on their side and assisting them onto their hands and knees (put a blanket or towel on the floor if they have bad knees).
- Put a chair next to them, and help them to put the foot of their strongest leg flat on the floor.
- Use the chair for additional support for the weight on their weaker side. Place them in a lunging position.
- Place another chair behind them so that they can move as upright as possible and sit back onto the chair.
- Support them while they do this, ensuring their back is straight.
- Keep them seated and seek medical advice if necessary.
How to prevent a fall in the home
One option is to create a fall prevention plan – this may involve speaking to a GP or trying out a simple balance test when you next visit.
A GP can also do a sight test and review the medication that is being used. Regular exercise can improve balance and flexibility, it’s a good idea to prevent falls from happening as much as possible. Removing clutter, using non-slip mats, and making sure all passages are clear and well-lit are just some of the steps you can take.
Home hazard assessments are another great way to prevent your loved one from having a fall as much as possible.
This involves a visit from a healthcare professional who has experience in fall risk prevention visiting the home. Fitting a personal alarm system is another way to help manage the risk of a fall so that if they do fall, the alarm can signal for someone to help. If falls become a serious risk in the day-to-day life of a person, then elderly live-in care may be a serious consideration.