One in three is far too many.
Many seniors and their families are concerned about falling. Studies indicate there is a good reason for this worry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 1 in 3 seniors fall at least once a year. These falls tend to be serious and lead to millions of emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Further studies show when seniors do fall and have to be admitted to a hospital, a large percentage are not able to return directly home and must be admitted to a care center. In addition, a large number of these seniors are never able to live independently again.
Geriatricians have long recognized this risk and work with their patients to reduce the risk of falling. A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in care for people 65 and older. Geriatricians possess the knowledge and expertise needed to accommodate seniors and will approach each patient's needs individually. While geriatricians treat physical problems, most of these doctors understand this includes recognizing how health conditions affect seniors socially and emotionally, and vice versa. To address the real problem of falling, there are proven approaches Geriatricians use to prevent falls. These approaches can be used in numerous settings. Here are five of the approaches to help reduce falling:
- Do a medication review. There are many different medications which can pose a fall risk for seniors. These can include but are not limited to: sedatives and tranquilizers, antipsychotics, over-the-counter sleep or night-time drugs, antihistamines and certain types of drugs for an overactive bladder, vertigo, nausea, nerve pain, and depression. If you are caring for a senior who takes any of these types of drugs it is critical not to stop the drug but instead ask for a medication review on a regular basis, in order to make sure the medications he or she is taking are not contributing to a fall risk.
- Check blood pressure both sitting and standing. It is important to understand blood pressure drops when you stand or change positions. This is especially important to know for seniors since many of them have high blood pressure. Since changing blood pressure can cause a feeling of lightheadedness, which can contribute to falls, it is extremely important the senior have their blood pressure monitored on a regular basis.
- Do a gait and balance evaluation. Most Geriatricians will at a minimum observe their patients walking to and away from them while they are in the office. If unsteadiness is observed the doctor may recommend the senior have a gait and balance evaluation. These are done by physical therapy and are covered by Medicare when ordered by a physician. The physical therapist can then recommend certain exercises to help improve balance and may even suggest a walker or cane for added stability.
- Make a home safety assessment for possible modifications. This is a step which can be taken on your own. Inspecting the senior’s residence for potential fall risks can go a long way toward reducing them. Installing proper lighting, adding bed rails, and handrails in the bathroom can help a senior feel more secure when getting up and down (especially at night). Furniture can be moved to create easy walkways and rugs can be secured or removed. A professional occupational therapist can also make recommendations about what products can be used to make your bedroom, bathroom, and car safer.
- Test for low Vitamin D levels. There are some studies which indicate low levels of Vitamin D can contribute to falls. If you are concerned about this, have your senior’s doctor check their level of Vitamin D with a simple blood test to see if additional supplementation is necessary.
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.