What To Do When Your Loved One Falls
Falling down is something that happens to us all from time to time. Though for elderly adults, falls can prove to be more of a challenge, and, at times, falls can even be fatal. For some, a fall can simply be an isolated incident, a one-time thing. But for a good number of seniors, they happen more frequently. In particular, people suffering from dementia are often at risk for repeated episodes of falling, since they may have issues with their balance or coordination, and they tend to be more used to a shuffling gait instead of a normal stride.
If they struggle with sleepwalking, restless pacing, or have poor or reduced hand-eye coordination, these may contribute to a higher number of falls. If you see that your loved one has been tripping or falling more than normal, here are a few things you can do to help after you have assessed the initial situation:
- Identify patterns—was it merely a one-time thing, or has it happened often, whether when you were there or not? Be on the lookout for patterns as you question them about what happened. If they are no longer able to provide adequate answers, try and figure things out yourself
- Look for underlying conditions—talk with a doctor to see if there is a health condition or medication that might be responsible for an increased risk of falls or tumbles. Besides dementia, other conditions that can lead to risk of falling are postural hypertension, heart disorders like arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat, changes in vision, incontinence, foot numbness caused by diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Pain from arthritis can lead to decreased mobility, which can increase falls, and those who suffer from osteoporosis run the risk of suffering greater injury from falls due to thinning bones.
- Ask if a new or changed medication could be at fault—any new or changed medications can cause falls, since many of them have side effects which include confusion in elders with dementia and also worsen balance. Always be sure to watch your loved one for new symptoms when there’s been a change in medication, and don’t forget to report it to the prescribing doctor as well. In many cases, dosages can be reduced, or a new medication can be found altogether.
Another way that you can help prevent falls is to try physical therapy or walking aids for your elderly friend or loved one. Therapy can help to strengthen leg muscles, and the aids can provide a sense of stability where there otherwise may be none. Also, be sure to remove any clutter from around the house, such as books or magazines. If shelved properly, such things will pose little to no threat to anyone, most of all, a senior prone to tumbles. You may also help to prevent falls by trying a different pair of shoes. When it comes to footwear, tennis shoes with treads on the bottom are a good choice, since they help to grip the ground and provide stability. When it comes to footwear, shoes with Velcro fasteners or those that fit securely are all good choices to consider as well.
Finally, remember to prepare for future falls. You might consider an alarm device the senior can use when you are not around to help. It’s important that if a fall happens, someone is aware and can ensure that they receive any and all medical care that is needed for them.