Our parents guided our first steps, making sure that we were safe and catching us when we fell. As we all get older, roles change and many children take up the task of being caregivers for their parents. Part of that role involves ensuring our parents’ physical safety, much like they ensured ours when we were growing up.
Slips, trips, and falls are a major risk to seniors, one that their home caregivers must constantly be on guard against. Because our bodies become less robust as we age, a fall that a young or middle-aged person can shrug off can cause serious injury to an older person. Unfortunately, we become more susceptible to falls as we age because we become less agile.
Nearly a third of men and women over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year. While the majority of these incidents will not cause serious injury, a substantial number of them will. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors and can have huge consequences for older adults and their families. Consider these statistics concerning senior falls:
- Every 11 seconds, a senior must receive treatment in an emergency room from a fall. Every 19 minutes, a senior dies as a result of a fall.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million emergency room visits each year. Falls result in more than 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- About 60 percent of deaths associated with falls involve people aged 75 or older.
- Older people who sustain falls requiring hospitalization on average stay in the hospital almost twice as long as seniors admitted to a hospital for any other reason.
- A quarter of all seniors who suffer a fractured hip resulting from a fall will die within six months of the injury.
One of the most serious injuries an older adult can sustain as a result of a fall is a hip fracture. As adults grow older, our bones grow weaker and become more susceptible to fracture. For seniors with osteoporosis, a disease primarily affecting women, the risk is elevated. Nine of every ten hip fractures involve a person over the age of 65.
Hip fractures are a grave threat to seniors’ health. When seniors fracture a hip, there is often a long recovery time, meaning months of physical inactivity. During that time of inactivity, seniors often lose physical agility and strength. The surgical treatment for hip fractures can also be risky for seniors in poor health, and complications such as blood clots and infections may occur. Hip fractures are also very difficult for older people to recover from, and about half of all seniors who suffer a hip fracture will need to use a cane or walker for the remainder of their lives.
Pro-active thinking on the part of home caregivers can go a long way toward preventing slips and falls among seniors. By minimizing fall risks in your elderly parent’s home, you can help prevent your loved one from suffering a potentially serious injury. Home health experts recommend these best practices for removing potential causes of slips and falls from a senior’s home:
- Encourage exercise – Seniors who are physically active are likely to have better coordination and stronger muscles in their lower body, making them less likely to suffer from falls. Find age-appropriate exercise activities for seniors to participate in to maintain their physical ability.
- Install easy-access light switches – Walking into a dark room puts your senior at elevated risk for sustaining a fall. By placing light switches at each entry to all rooms in the home, you can ensure that your senior never has to walk into a dark room.
- Replace loose tiles or floorboards – Even small shifts in the ground beneath them can cause a senior to fall. Make your parents’ home safer by ensuring that the floor is stable and level.
- Secure loose area rugs – While decorative, area rugs can pose a tripping hazard if they are not securely attached to the floor. You can use double-sided tape or tacks to keep an area rug firmly rooted to the floor.
- Keep low-to-the-ground coffee tables, end tables, ottomans and other furniture out of heavy traffic areas – These pieces of furniture can pose a tripping hazard if your senior doesn’t see them in the way.
- Make the shower safe – Install handrails in the shower and alongside the walls near the shower. Also, place a rubber mat or nonskid adhesive strip inside the shower or tub.
- Install nightlights – Installing nightlights in hallways and bathrooms can help seniors avoid falling at night.
- Consider a medical alert – If your parent lives alone, it could be hours or more before help is notified if they fall. Medical alert bracelets allow your senior to immediately notify paramedics if they fall and become immobilized.
- Make sure there are adequate railings on stairs – Stairs and steps can be perilous for seniors, particularly outside steps made of wood or stone. To help seniors better maintain their balance when ascending or descending, install guardrails on either side of the steps or stairway.
- Keep extension cords out of traffic areas – Extension cords can easily trip seniors or anyone else, for that matter. Make your home or your parents’ home safer by keeping extension cords out of trafficked areas.
- Get rid of clutter – Reducing clutter can reduce the likelihood of falls. Give your folks’ home a good spring cleaning and get rid of unneeded items.
Talk About It First
Occasionally, when trying to make things safer or easier for our parents, we become overbearing and fail to recognize their independence and autonomy as adults. This can lead to strains in your relationship and foster resentment and non-compliance among seniors. Before making changes in your home or your parents’ home to make them safer, you should discuss the situation with them.
Before having the conversation, think about what you want to say and the best way to present the matter to them. Be sure to have some facts about seniors and falls on hand to present as justification about why you’d like to make modifications to their homes and routines. When the conversation occurs, discuss in detail the changes you wish to make and try to solicit some buy-in from your parent or parents for the changes.
If the conversation becomes tense, take a break rather than let it devolve into an argument. If you can get your parents on board for these changes, your relationship will be better and your parents will be more enthusiastic about practicing safe habits.
Finding Home Health Care Help
Providing care for an aged parent presents a challenge for many adults, especially if they have busy careers or are part of the “sandwich generation”—the generation of adults responsible for providing care for their own children and their elderly parents at the same time. Home health care workers can help take off some of the burden and provide highly professional care to older Americans. Hiring a home health care worker is often less expensive than sending a loved one to live in assisted living and can take a lot of the burden off of family caregivers.
Home Care Assistance San Antonio is a south central Texas company providing in-home care services for seniors and other adults. The company’s trained, professional caregivers provide non-medical care and companionship great for seniors who need help with day-to-day living tasks and companionship. Families have several flexible options, including hourly and live-in care options. Schedule an in-home consultation today to learn more about how Home Care Assistance San Antonio can help you provide a safe environment in your parents’ or grandparents’ homes that will be conducive to their care and well-being.