Any of us can have a clumsy moment and take a tumble, but as we age the health issues that we may face can make it much easier to fall, and the consequences can be much more serious.
The NHS reported that around 1 in 3 adults over 65 are vulnerable to falls, and while there is a great amount that we can do to address the risks and causes of these incidents, sometimes we may find that our elderly loved one doesn’t tell us when something happens because they don’t want to be a burden, or are afraid that signs they are struggling may lead to a loss of their independence.
For this reason, it is worth discussing falls with our loved one to put their mind at ease when it comes to sharing such challenges, keeping an eye out for signs that a fall might have already occurred, and taking steps to make the home as safe as we possibly can.
Signs Of A Fall
If your loved one has not mentioned a fall, you can be alert to some warning signals that all is not right. The following signs should give you cause to investigate:
- Cuts or bruises
- Headaches or dizziness
- A sudden change in mobility
- Fear or avoidance of a certain part of the house
If you suspect a fall, always seek medical attention. While many falls can be minor in nature, osteoporosis in later life can make bone fractures more likely, pain symptoms can be tricky to differentiate when mixed amongst other aches and pains, and particularly the symptoms of head injuries in those with dementia can be easier to miss. Reacting quickly and taking precautions could be life-saving for your loved one.
A Pre-Emptive Chat With Your Loved One
If you fear your loved one may hide problems from you, sit down for a good cup of tea and discuss the ways that age-related challenges can be addressed in steps, without necessarily involving immediate changes to their current living arrangements.
Falls can be triggered by weakness relating to treatable health issues such as anaemia, urinary tract infections or dehydration. Weakness may also be a symptom of something more serious like heart problems or a minor stroke, so it is always wise to share what’s going on. A fall may be a sign that the sight of your loved ones has deteriorated, or signal that they are experiencing side effects from a medication.
Sometimes scary symptoms turn out to be something that can easily be treated, but regardless of the outcome, it is always best to act and investigate when something is wrong.
Safety Measures We Can Apply
There are lots of things we can do in the home to reduce the risk of falls, such as de-cluttering, brightening up risky areas and addressing potentially slippery floors in bathrooms and kitchens.
- Improve lighting in high-risk areas
- Install handrails on staircases
- Remove loose electrical cables and other trip hazards
- Add non-slip mats on slippery or uneven floors
- De-clutter floor areas creating open walkways
We can also try to instil some house rules such as asking for help before carrying the laundry basket up and down the stairs and leaving tasks involving balance; such as changing light bulbs and dusting to others.
If You Are Concerned
Once someone has experienced a fall, they are considered to be at higher risk of falling again. If you feel that your loved one is vulnerable, whether they have fallen already or not, visit their doctor together for advice. Here, the doctor will be able to make assessments of their balance and gait, check their vision, blood sugar and blood pressure. They will be able to review medications and look for any other signs of illness or decline.
If you are concerned that your loved one is taking excessive risks when alone, you might be able to help by bringing someone in who can perform more tricky tasks on your loved one’s behalf, such as cleaning and chores. If a senior is particularly afraid of reaching a point where they need care support in their home, introducing a person who simply assists with menial tasks can be a great way of breaking down any anxiety your loved one might have about having a stranger in the house; making potential changes ahead far less intimidating.
It may be the case that your loved one is experiencing problems that are easily rectified, or you might learn that larger decisions need to be made to avoid future risks. Doing what we can to minimise the possibility of injuries to those we care about can offer increased peace of mind for everyone and could improve the quality of life of your loved one in ways they hadn’t imagined.