Stand Up to Falls This National Safety Month
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
June marks the beginning of summer and all of the enjoyable activities that take place during this time of year. June is also National Safety Month! This year, we encourage our readers to be more aware of the risk of falls in the elderly community to help prevent them.
Accidental falls are the number one cause of injury and death in American adults over the age of 65. At the current rate, over 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. With such staggering numbers, it becomes more and more likely that more of us will have parents, friends, family, and neighbors in this age group who run the risk of a fall.
While older adults are healthier and more active than they've ever been, 1 in 4 will still report having a bad fall this year. Many more will fall and simply not report it. Emergency departments and families spend about $31 Billion annually to treat over 3 million older Americans for falls. Since falls and fall-related injuries are increasing, chances have also raised that you know someone personally who was affected by a fall.
So what can you do to help your loved one avoid falls?
While falls are prevalent, they are preventable! Here are three things you can do to ensure that your loved one doesn't have a fall this year, and one thing you can do to ensure they can still get help if they do fall:
1. Talk to a doctor and go over the risks.
The worst thing about falls is that they limit freedom and independence if they cause a severe injury. You and your loved one should go over your loved one's risks and health goals with their healthcare provider. The doctor can screen your loved one for fall risk, look at possible changes to lower the risk of falling (such as a new medication or glasses), and to offer practical strategies that can help them meet their own goals while reducing their risk of an accident.
You should also take great care as a caregiver to ensure that your loved one speaks up if they've fallen recently, feel unsteady on their feet or worry about falling. It's a good idea to go over Vitamin D supplements that can improve nerve, bone, and muscle health. By speaking up, you can ensure that the doctor can help you and your loved one make changes that will ensure their continued wellness and quality of life.
2. Encourage them to keep moving.
If you don't use it, you'll lose it! It's crucial to encourage your loved one to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they age. Older adults are at a higher risk of falling, so improving their balance an strengthening their legs makes it possible to reduce that risk. Yoga, Tai Chi, walking, and swimming are all great, low-impact exercises that can strengthen legs and improve balance. Best of all, exercise is good for mental health, too. It can make your loved ones feel more steady and confident.
3. Make their home safer.
Most falls happen at home when you least expect it. All it takes is a throw rug at the top of the stairs to trip over and cause an accident. In an older post, we outlined a lot of great ways to make the home safer, but here are a few easy things you can do:
Tidy up cords neatly and remove trip hazards, like rugs
Add railings to both sides of the staircase
Add a non-skid surface to your steps
Add more light and use brighter light bulbs
Install grab bars near the tub and toilet
4. Outfit them with a medical alert device.
Falls come with their own set of horror stories, but the worst ones are the incidents where someone takes a fall and sustains an injury making it impossible to get back up and call for help. Most of the time, these people are forced to lie wherever they fell and deal with an injury alone for several hours until someone decides to stop by their home. In some cases, they succumb to their injuries and are found dead several days later.
While a personal emergency response system (PERS) can't actively prevent a fall, it can ensure that if an accident were to happen, your loved one could still call for help regardless of where they fell or what they injured on the way down. By wearing the simple one-button device around the neck, in a pocket or around the wrist, your loved one will always have a direct line to help in an emergency, even with an injury.
A PERS device, medical alert system, or emergency alert system is a great way to ensure mom and dad can age in place without the need for a caretaker checking in regularly. Most of them are designed to be worn around the neck or in a pocket, though mountable medical alert devices like the Emergency Wall Communicator can also be placed in high-risk areas, like the staircase.
Bottom line falls affect everyone. This June and National Safety Month we hope that you encourage the older adults you know to take good steps to ensure their longer, healthier lives.