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