Two Steps to Prevent Falls at Home
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Once burned, twice shy.” It means that once you’ve had a bad experience, you’re not likely to expose yourself to a risk again. That expression very well states what happens to a person who has suffered a bad fall and its consequences. Preventing falls is important. Whether the fall causes a bruise or a broken hip, the victim is likely to remember the pain of falling and to be more hesitant to move about the home, to exercise, and to be independent.
Often, people who have fallen become afraid of falling. Their fear causes them and their caregivers to restrict activities in their home and outside the home. It causes them to worry and become anxious in daily activities of living. However, sitting in bed is not the answer. Reduced activity leads to reduced strength and poor balance. Increased disability leads to increased dependence.
Falling and Dependence
Caregivers will probably see their loved one withdrawing and isolating themselves when they restrict their usual activities. Caregivers are faced with trying to persuade them to do for themselves what they used to do without any help. Everyone in the household will be dealing with more stress when there is a constant fear of falling. Soon caregivers fear that the patient will fall as much and as often as the patient fears falling.
To handle these fears, get some reliable information about the patient’s health and risk for falling, and then reduce the risks in the home.
First, ask your doctor to assess your health and look for conditions that might make falling likely. The Center for Disease Control offers physicians an instrument to use in evaluating older patients for fall risk. It is called STEADI, Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries. The doctor will ask questions about falling and make recommendations based on his evaluation.
Part of the doctor’s STEADI evaluation is to review all medications, particularly antidepressants and tranquilizers. Are they necessary? Do they cause dizziness or affect alertness? It is important for a patient and caregiver to know the side effects of medications. Can changes be made in medications, dosage, or scheduling which would help? Is the patient using alcohol in addition to their medications.
Talk to Your Doctor
Ask the doctor to check your blood pressure, and the change in your blood pressure when going from sitting to standing. Get your vision checked regularly and update your eyeglasses.
If you are a caregiver for a patient with dementia, talk to the doctor about the patient’s level of understanding of dangers. Dementia can make a person constantly fearful and suspicious, or it can cause them to be oblivious to obvious dangers. Such reactions can cause stress and worry for you as a caregiver as well.
Ask the doctor about getting a physical therapist to check the patient’s balance and walking. Do they need a cane or a walker? Do they use the one they have correctly? A physical therapist can teach them how.
Your physician, your home health care nurse, and therapists are invaluable sources of information and help.
Take a look around your house. There are many ways to reduce the risk of falling at home, and most are not expensive.
Does the entrance and exit you use need handrails to make it safer? A ramp? A chair lift? There are many ways to modify entrances. It is absolutely essential to have a safe way to exit the house in case of an emergency.
Can you remove slip-hazards from the paths around the house? Throw-rugs, electric cords, clutter, shoes, toys, water spills in front of sinks, etc. Ask your kids to get down on the floor to spot these and pick up as many as they find every day. (And, maybe, the kids will learn to pick up after themselves.)
Are there grab bars in the bathroom around the tub and toilet? Grab bars are easy to install, and can be placed beside dressing areas, sinks, toilets, kitchen sinks, on the walls of hallways, etc.
Most falls occur in the bathroom. You can help prevent falls by installing some safety items. There is an assortment of bath safety equipment here at our store. If your not sure which products you really need, you might ask a occupational therapist to evaluate both the client and the bathroom to get a good fit.
There are solutions to a fear of falling available to you and your loved ones. Make reducing fall risks a priority this month.