From the time we start walking… we fall.
But as we get older, falling can start happening more often then we want, and at a certain point it can be deadly.
There are many elderly people living out in the community, with or without family. Even when living with family, you can’t stop someone from falling. However, there are ways to try and prevent falls.
- remove throw rugs! you think they are giving traction? WRONG! they are traps! and huge tripping hazards.
- Make sure to wear sneakers or a sturdy shoe with rubber soles.
- If you’re not in your sneakers, wear sturdy slippers with rubber soles, or socks with treads on the bottom.
- Crocks and slip on shoes are easy to wear, but not the best shoes! I’ve had several people come to rehab because they slipped out of their shoes and broke a hip, arm, shoulder, etc.
- move around furniture, make sure there are wide pathways in the home. If falls start occurring more, it may be time for a cane or walker. Wide pathways will allow for this use.
- Get a shower chair for walk-in showers or a tub transfer bench (its a neat bench that has one side on the outside of the tub and the other half inside, so you can sit and scoot over the side of the tub instead of trying to hurtle the side of the tub to get clean!)
- get a high toilet seat or 3 in 1 commode for the bedside. The high toilet seat is helpful because you don’t need to bend down as far to sit on the toilet. The 3 in 1 commode, can be used as a high toilet seat, or you can leave it by bedside at night. Sometimes at night when we get up to go to the bathroom we can be groggy and not see well, many falls can happen at this time. If you notice you or a relative falling during the night, this might be the way to go.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! Falls can occur from urinary tract infections, these can occur when we become dehydrated. Other causes are hygiene related, like not wiping properly and not washing hands. If you or your loved one wears a diaper, make sure to change it as soon as possible, this can also cause infection. (side note: UTI’s in the elderly can also cause change in mental status, paranoia, forgetfulness, hallucinations and other dementia like symptoms)
- Sign up for lifeline or other similar services- they come in neat wristbands now, so you don’t have to wear the button necklace. Many think cellphones are just as good, but sometimes we don’t take them everywhere we go. We may leave it in one room and fall in another, and have no way to get to it. I have had a couple patients at the rehab who have fallen and were left over night or for days without help because they fell, broke bones, and their cell phone was across the room. I most recently had a patient, who had lifeline, and fell down her basement stairs breaking both her arms, and injuring lower extremities. She wore the necklace and was able to get the button in her mouth and bite down. She is making a full recovery.
- If you live in a split level, bi level and two level home, it might be time to settle down on the ground floor. Its a big step, but if falling down stairs is a huge risk factor, its something to think about.
- In more extreme cases, it might be time to hire help, move in with a family member or have someone move in with you, or just be there during activities such as laundry, cooking, bathing-especially if there are stairs involved.
Its not easy getting old. You may feel fine, be in the best of health, but sometimes our bodies start going before the rest of us do. It’s hard to accept, but it does happen.