A fall can be a devastating event in the life of an elderly person. A fall may affect one’s confidence and may discourage one’s independent activities, it may cause a fracture and other soft tissue injuries and leading to a decrease in one’s quality of life. For this reason, falls prevention is very important in the management of health for the elderly. We have outlined methods for assessing and tackling this below.
Awareness of Falls – by the older person themselves, the family, the community, to pay closer attention to fall-related risk factors. A bad fall can have devastating effects on the person’s health, independence and quality of life. One in three older people fall every year and two-thirds of them fall again within six months. Older people are most likely to suffer serious injuries, disability, psychological consequences and death following a fall. One in four elderly patients that suffer a hip fracture will die with one year of their injury. Proper assessment of an elderly person’s risks for falling can highlight what needs to be done to protect them, which makes a big difference in that person’s life.
Identification of Risk – Has the individual a fear of falling? How often do they fall? Where are they likely to fall?
Walking & Balance – Test for balance, muscle strength and mobility- assess if the person can rise from a chair without using their arms, take a few steps and sit back down in the chair without using their arms. This should be done within 14 seconds. Depending on a person’s level of mobility, an elderly person can engage in a broad range of physical activities on a regular basis to improve strength and balance.
Medication – Review the person’s medication and doses (especially night sedation or heavy painkillers, which cause drowsiness).
Co-morbidities – Check the person’s risk of osteoporosis, poor vision, memory, heart rate and blood pressure and feet, arthritis and depression. All of these factors can leave a person prone to a fall.
Home Hazards – Assess for rugs, electrical wires, children’s toys, wet floors, unstable furniture and other trip hazards, unsafe sidewalks or garden paths. Loose carpets or rugs should be tacked down. Use a rubber mat for slippery areas such as the bathroom or at the kitchen sink. Make sure that the phone is nearby and accessible. Avoid rushing to answer the phone.
Avoid clothes which may trail or dangle and avoid shoes which may be high heeled, slippy or too loose.
Lighting – Assess for bad lighting and install high intensity bulbs. Light switches should be easily accessible. Leave a torch by the bed-side.
Mobility Aids – Install hand railings on the stairs, toilets and beside the bed. Chairs should not have wheels and should have arm rests. This makes it easier and safer for the elderly person to move about. Encourage the use of a walking stick, cane or crutch.
Get enough sleep!