Children fall and scrape their knees, people learning to dance often trip over their own two feet, and we use the phrase “falling in love” probably more often than we should. While falling may seem like no big deal to a playing child or a younger dancer, it can be dangerous and detrimental if it happens to an elderly individual. As people age into their elderly years, their skin is often thinner, and their bodies usually don’t have the ability to heal as quickly as when they were younger.
There are plenty of things that contribute to the issue of falling, such as changes in balance and gait as we age, vision changes, medications, as well as the environment around us. There are also the issues presented in chronic conditions, such as a stroke or arthritis that may have permanently weakened our ability to properly keep our balance.
We all want to make sure that we are able to help keep our loved ones from falling, and there are some ways that we can do just that.
First and foremost, have them take part in planning or deciding upon the steps you can use to keep them safe. It’s true that a lot of older adults realize that they are at risk of falling, but they may not think it can happen to them, or if it does, they believe they won’t get hurt. If they or you are concerned about their risk of falling, dizziness, or balance issues, be sure and talk together with their healthcare provider. Their healthcare provider can better assess their risks and can suggest different programs or services that can help them.
Secondly, talk with them about any current health conditions they might have. If they’re having trouble remembering to take medications or are experiencing any side effects, then this could also be a reason for balance issues. Importantly, make sure that they take advantage of the many preventative benefits that Medicare now offers, like the Annual Wellness visit, and encourage them to talk with their doctors about any concerns they might have.
Next, inquire about their most recent eye exam. If they wear glasses, make sure that the prescription is correct and current, and that they’re using them as outlined by their optometrist. If your loved one has tint-changing lenses, they can be hazardous when they go from the bright outside to darker buildings. If this is an issue, you can either change lenses or simply stop using them until their lenses have adjusted. Also, bifocals can be quite hazardous on stairs, so if they suffer from low-vision, you may consider consulting with a low-vision specialist to see what can be done to help them in that area.
If you find they often have to hold onto walls or other things around them for support when standing, you may want to suggest seeing a physical therapist that can help improve their balance and gait. They may also recommend using things like a walker or cane to help steady them. However, keep in mind that if these medical devices are used incorrectly, then these aids could actually increase the risk of falling.
It is also important to make sure you do a safety check of their home. Make sure it is “elder friendly.” That way, both they and you can rest easy knowing that all precautions have been taken to help ensure their safety.