Six Steps to Take After Suffering a Fall
There's a ton of content available online that offers suggestions, tips, and tricks to help prevent senior falls. Fall prevention tips are great since falls are the number one cause of fatal injuries in seniors and older adults. In fact, falls are also the number one cause of non-fatal injuries in seniors. But what are you to do if you suffer a fall anyway?
The actions you take in the moments after a fall can be the difference between life and death. Even in the case of a non-fatal injury, the steps you take after a fall can impact how quickly you can recover, both physically and emotionally.
Step 1: Catch your breath and clear your head
Falling is scary! I'm sure if you think about it, you can remember a traumatic fall you or someone you loved experienced as a child that sticks with you even today. For me, it was my best friend falling from the monkey bars and breaking her arm. Falling takes an emotional toll on our mental health. Even if you don't fall and hurt yourself, the fear and anxiety associated with the fall itself and what could have happened are palatable. Before you stand up from the fall, take a moment, and allow yourself to go through those emotions and check-in with yourself. Take several slow, deep breaths to help you relax and recover from the sheer shock of the accident.
Step 2: Before getting up, assess your level of pain
Instinctively, we like to try and right ourselves after a fall immediately. However, jumping right up after a fall can do more harm than good in many situations. You may not fully recognize your level of pain with all of the adrenaline coursing through your veins. Getting up too quickly can also make injuries worse, so it's best to approach the situation with a level head (step 1). After breathing, you can start scanning your body for any pain and pinpoint where it's coming from. If you're hurt, the best thing to do is call for help and wait, since moving can make the injury worse. PERS devices and medical alert systems make it possible to call for help after an accident without having to drag yourself to a different room or to a phone. A doctor should still assess minor injuries that aren't debilitating (such as bumps or bruises) if you're over the age of 60.
Step 3: Call for help without getting up
This step isn't optional! Even if your fall only causes a minor injury or emotional toll, you should still let someone know that it happened as soon as you can. Telling others makes it possible for you and your loved ones to come up with ways to take more preventative measures against falls. If you're hurt and you can't get up, the need to call for help is much more urgent. If someone is home with you, be sure to call out to them or bang on walls and furniture to get their attention. If you are home alone, you should press the button on your personal emergency response system to be connected with a friend, family member, or emergency responders who can come and help you. You can also use a phone if it's accessible.
If you're caught alone without a medical alert device, your chances of surviving a life-threatening injury from a fall are slim. If you fell down the stairs and left your phone upstairs, you wouldn't be able to crawl up there with a broken hip. Additionally, nobody will know that you fell and need help, leaving you to suffer for hours or days until someone stops over by chance. Some injuries caused by falls include broken bones, fractures, and internal bleeding. Think about dragging yourself up a flight of stairs or through your home with any of those conditions, and consider carrying a PERS device or medical alert system with you at all times. Some PERS devices, like LogicMark's Emergency Wall Communicator, can be mounted in high-risk areas of the home such as on the staircase or in the bathroom. These devices make it possible to call for help in places accidents happen most frequently. If you ended up at the bottom of the staircase, a button mounted there could save your life if you didn't have your pendant. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
Step 4: Wait for help
While you're waiting for help to come, there are a few things you can do to prevent further injury. However, you don't have to stay on the floor. After calling for help and determining any surrounding fall-hazards, slowly and carefully roll your body to one side. Spend some time on your side to allow your blood pressure time to adjust to the change. After some time, gently lift yourself onto your hands and knees if you are able. You can crawl in this position to a sturdy chair or sofa where you can gently pull yourself into a seated position on the furniture. Use a kneeling position to leverage your body and slowly lift it into the chair.
You can also:
- Keep yourself comfortable and use blankets to keep warm.
- If you're able, gently change your position to prevent circulation problems and numbness
- If you fall outside, be sure to move to somewhere shady to avoid overheating and dehydration. If it's cold out, seek shelter.
- Sip fluids while you wait for help if they're available. Don't push yourself if you have an injury.
- Look at your surroundings and determine if you're in an area that poses a hazard to your rescuers. Be sure to notify them of trip hazards or broken glass when they arrive.
Step 5: Follow up with your doctor
When emergency responders or friends and family members come to help you and further assess your situation, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. If you sustained a severe injury, your helpers would take you to the emergency room or urgent care center where you will receive treatment. It's a good idea to schedule a follow up after a severe injury to rule out any complications from the accident. If your fall doesn't warrant a doctor visit, it's still essential to follow up whenever you fall. Sometimes falls are caused by poor vision and side effects from medications which can be changed through regular appointments. Your doctor can also offer you a variety of exercises, and lifestyle changes that can help you prevent falls even further.
Step 6: Determine what caused your fall and take preventative actions
Falls are caused by a ton of different things. Medications, trip hazards, poor lighting, spills, loss of mobility or balance, and even hunger and dehydration are all factors that can lead to falls. Once you've fully recovered from your fall, it's a good idea to think about why and how it happened and figure out if it's something you can fix. If you slipped and fell at night, try investing in a few nightlights. If your dehydration caused you to feel lightheaded and dizzy, set reminders to sip water. You can also wear non-slip shoes around the house, get rid of rugs, and remove any trip hazards.