Helping Your Elderly Parents Avoid Falls

Here are 9 helpful tips that minimize the risk of your loved ones falling and injuring themselves

helping your elderly parents

I am from the baby boomer generation (just made it by a hair) and now see my mother and all of my friend’s elderly parents coping with the issue of falling, particularly at night.  It has become a very hot and emotional topic.  That’s why I wanted to share some advice on preventing falls.  Two weeks ago, my mother fell in the middle of the night when she decided that she needed a snack at 1:00am.  Luckily she didn’t hurt herself too badly, just a sprained ankle.  She also was wearing one of those medical alert watches that notify someone in her assisted living facility that she needed help.

That’s how she ended up in assisted living in the first place. She is fine during the day, but at night she likes to get up to snack, go to the bathroom, etc…and that’s where the trouble started.  Her falling resulted in 2 extended 3 month stays at rehab centers in 1 year.  Falling is one of the most common and scary issues that the elderly (and their grown children) face, especially at night.

Did you know that 5% – 10% of these falls can cause a major injury?  This could include hip fractures, broken bones and head trauma to name a few.  Here are a few other sobering statistics to think about…

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • One-third of Americans aged 65+ falls each year
  • Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall
  • Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall

These statistics, unfortunately, put everything into perspective.  The good news is that there are multiple ways to prevent falls.

Let’s first evaluate the most common causes of falls in the elderly…

Medications:  Certain medications taken at night to help sleep or relax could disorient a loved one if they wake up in the middle of the night.

Low Blood Pressure:  If your parent has low blood pressure, they could get very dizzy from getting up too fastneuropathy - damaged nerves

Peripheral Neuropathy:  Tingling, pain or numbness can easily cause bad falls.

Osteoporosis:  As we age, our bones become more and more brittle.  The elderly are more at risk to breaking a bone during a fall.

Incontinence:  This bladder issue causes a need to urinate frequently and this is especially bad at night if your parent needs to get to the bathroom quickly.

Mobility Issues:  Mobility issues are caused by a number of things, but the net result is that elderly parent may have a tough time getting the bathroom in time at night.

Cataracts:  When your vision is impaired, you carry a higher risk of bumping into things that could cause a fall.

Having spoken to my mother and her friends (all over 80 years old), they gave me some great tips on what they personally do to avoid falls at night.

Here are 9 tips to help prevent falls at night:

  • Go to the bathroom right before you go to sleep to minimize the need to get up in the middle of the night.bedside commode
  • Depending on your level of mobility, invest in a portable bedside commode so you can quickly get to it in case you need to go in the middle of the night.
  • Have a glass of water and a little snack on your bedside table, so there is no need to get up and wander around.
  • Keep your walker set up near your bed within easy reach, just in case you need to get up for whatever reason.  This will give you needed stability.
  • Have a touch lamp next to the bed so you can see where you are going.  I also recommend  having more than 1 nightlight set up.Grand Pa
  • Consider getting a lower bed where your feet can touch the floor.  Many of the foam mattress retailers have frames and mattresses that are lower than tradition mattresses.
  • Invest in some type of device that allows you to alert others if you are having any trouble.  My mother and her friends really like the watch version of this.  They keep them on for 24 hours a day.
  • Try to reduce the clutter around your home so you don’t accidently trip on something.  Keep a clear path to your bathroom so you don’t have to maneuver around things at night.

Conclusion

Everyone with older mobility challenged parents needs to be aware of this tremendous issue.  In July 2015, the National Council on Aging released the 2015 Falls Free® National Action Plan— they refer to it as a blueprint of what should be done to reduce the growing number of falls and fall-related injuries among older adults.  We have covered many of their tips above.  I just recently learned that the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) will be observed on September 22, 2016. The objective of this national event is to raise awareness. The theme of this year’s event is

We have covered many of their tips above.  I just recently learned that the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day (FPAD) will be observed on September 22, 2016. The objective of this national event is to raise awareness. The theme of this year’s event is Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016.  

This issue is near and dear to my heart.  I would like to leave you with a short video from the National Council of Aging outlining 6 ways to prevent falls.

https://www.ncoa.org/resources/video-6-steps-to-prevent-a-fall/

6 steps to prevent a fall

Thanks for reading our blog!

Ruth

Related Articles: Mom’s Product Review of Drive Medical Deluxe Bedside Commode

8 thoughts on “Helping Your Elderly Parents Avoid Falls

  1. Ruth,
    What a great article and one that is much needed. My husband and I were the caregivers for his father for about 4 years. He lived with us and as time went on he was having more accidents and falls then we could handle. He had both knees completely replaced while with us but was still over 300 pounds. He fell out of his chair and it took everything we had to get him back up on the chair. It was a horrible situation because I felt so loss and like I wasn’t doing enough and I can only imagine how he felt not being able to control his body anymore. It’s so heart wrenching watching our loved ones not be able to do the things they use to be able to.

    He is currently in an Assisted Living Facility and we feel more at peace knowing there are trained professionals there to help him.

    Plus he LOVES his own little apartment. It was a win, win for all of us.

    The 9 tips you gave are so very practical, especially the device that alerts someone that you have fallen or need assistance.

    I’m glad your mom is doing alright and that it was only a sprained ankle. Thanks so much for the tips and educating those that might have to go through this as well.

    Be Blessed,
    Audrey

    1. Thanks Audrey! I’m glad your father in law is in a safe environment. It’s tough to watch our parents get older, but it’s good to know that there are ways we can help them.

      Ruth

  2. Hi Ruth,

    This is a very important topic for many people who have elderly parents. My mom is only in her late 60s but she is a candidate for a hip fracture because of a medication that she was given for Rheumatoid Arthritis I believe. So she has to be extremely careful so she does not fall until the adverse effects of that medication go away. She is staying with me for a while until she gets an apartment in the assisted living place she applied for. I will definitely implement some of these tips that I can implement for her wellbeing. Thank you for this great article!

    Sincerely,
    Jeanette

  3. My girlfriend is a nursing major, and she talks all the time about how important it is all of the time how to prevent falls in the elderly. She discusses ways, but this site has a ton more that I truly loved learning about. I enjoyed all of the photos, and the site is set up to have great direction. I can assess all of the pages very easily.

    1. Thanks…that’s good to hear that you like our focus and information. We set out to make a site that would be a centralized resource on mobility issues of the elderly.

      Ruth

  4. My girlfriend has a mother who is only around 60 (well, haha I guess that’s fairly old). She’s always worried about her mom falling, which she in-fact has done a few times. Her mom is suffering from arthritis on one side of her body which is making some things in life difficult. I like the idea that suggest investing in a device to help alert others. I think that is something that is very important for elderly care.

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