Here at Griswold Home Care, we have talked a lot about falls in the elderly and the impact it has on their quality of life. Here is a list of resources:
Fall Risk Factors
Fall Risk Assessment Tools
Fall Safety Precautions
A Fall Prevention Checklist
But we haven’t laid out a comprehensive fall prevention program or a care plan for those at risk of falling. This post will attempt to do that.
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We’ve already talked about fall risk factors in the elderly, but here is a short list as a reminder:
- Vision Changes
- Balance Issues
- New Medications
- Chronic Health Conditions
- Cognitive Impairment
- Poor Home Safety Measures
If you or your loved one suffers from one of these issues, a care plan should be considered. The plan should be customized depending on the condition and the level of severity.
A Risk for Falls Care Plan for Each Factor
Vision changes can affect both depth perception and peripheral vision. This means that those with declining vision may oversee items that could potentially trip them and cause a fall. It also means that poor judgment with depth perception may cause them to miss grabbing onto something nearby to prevent the fall from happening.
Family or professional caregivers can assist with activities that require sufficient vision including driving a car, maneuvering around a cluttered house, or even reading the newspaper. Another consideration could be eye surgery to improve vision. Advancements in eye treatments have made it possible for people with many different eye conditions to regain adequate eyesight. Please consult your doctor to discuss available options, and don’t forget to get your eyes checked regularly.
Balance issues usually play a part in activities of daily living that require shifting of weight from one foot to another or forcing one side of the body to handle most of the load. Activities such as walking up the stairs, bending down to tie a shoe, or stepping into a bathtub are common everyday tasks that test our balance. If your balance is in question, extra precaution must be taken in order to prevent a fall.
In-home caregivers are able to assist you or your loved one with any mobility tasks that require good balance. This issue specifically is one of the most common areas that older adults don’t ask for help with, but probably should. It only takes one second of loss of balance to end up with several months of rehabilitation for a broken bone. If you feel tentative about getting around on your own, please seek assistance or purchase a walking cane or stability device.
New medications are often overlooked as a cause of falls. Side effects often include dizziness which can make even the most steady individuals susceptible to falls. It’s important to ask your doctor and pharmacist about the side effects of any medicine that you take, especially if it is a new medication. Keep in mind that different people can experience different side effects, and depending on other medications that you are taking, side effects can be more severe. Make sure to tell your doctor about all medications that you are currently taking to ensure that you are not inadvertently putting yourself in harm’s way.
If a new medication has been prescribed to you and there is the likelihood to experience dizziness, it may make sense for you to seek help from a caregiver during the times you are medicated, at least to start. If you don’t experience dizziness after several times taking the medicine, you may decide a caregiver is not needed. Another alternative is to ensure that you do not need to move much during the period that you are taking the medicine, which could mean right before bed, or during times where you can remain seated.
Chronic health conditions can really increase the risk of falls. The list of conditions is long and the complications are numerous. With falls included in these complications, it’s important to know how your specific condition may contribute to a fall.
It’s difficult to build a custom care plan for chronic health conditions in general, since each affliction is different, but it is important for you to recognize if your condition puts you at risk of falling. If you don’t know, then please ask your doctor. The more information that you have regarding your condition, the better prepared you will be to prevent unnecessary additional problems resulting from a fall.
Cognitive impairment, resulting from such conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, has been linked to falls. Usually, impairment affects postural stability and creates balance issues. Since dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are so prevalent in the older population, it’s important to consider falls in those with these conditions.
Once dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has progressed to the point that the individual is no longer self-sufficient, a caregiver should be called upon for assistance. It’s important to explain and reiterate to the caregiver that your loved one may be at risk for falls, as it may not be the main focus of their attention depending on the caregiver’s past experience with individuals suffering from these conditions. Falls can accelerate cognitive impairment, especially if the fall includes head trauma.
Poor home safety measures are common in older adults. Whether your loved one is a hoarder, or has just simply accumulated a lot of items over the years, excessive ‘stuff’ lying around can make for a hazardous nightmare. Also, it’s important to make homes safer as we age including taping down rugs or removing them altogether, using non-slip mats in the bathtub, and adding more light to areas of the house that are dim.
Use your best judgement. If you see that your loved one has been negligent to the cleanliness of their home and floor space has become cluttered, help them pick up around the house or bring in a caregiver that can do light housekeeping. Home safety should be something that people of all ages consider, but it becomes increasingly important as we age and potential falls become a reality.
Fall Prevention Program
Keep in mind that many individuals may have more than one fall risk factor, so a comprehensive fall prevention program should be considered when putting together care plans. The statistics don’t lie, one out of every three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. A fall prevention program should be put in place once risk factors of a fall of been identified. Falls CAN be prevented with better fall prevention education. Contact your local Griswold Home Care office if you have questions about how a caregiver can help you or your loved one prevent falls.
Have questions about implementing a fall prevention program? Need more clarification around a particular risk for falls care plan?