Fall Risk Among Seniors Needs More Attention
June 12, 2018
Over the past decade, the number of deadly falls which have occurred in the age group of 65 and above has increased by more than 30%, according to medical researchers. Your Lake Stevens professional caregivers and private duty care specialists recommend that increased vigilance be used to safeguard senior loved ones from the perils of such falls. June is National Safety Month, and that makes it a great time to begin paying a little more attention to elderly people whom you already know may have difficulty navigating around the home, or who are not very stable when walking on slippery surfaces.
Deadly Falls by the Numbers
In the year 2007, there were 18,000 deaths by falls for senior citizens, and by 2017 that figure had increased to more than 30,000. Projections indicate that if that rate were to continue, there would be nearly 60,000 deaths by severe falls for seniors when the year 2030 is reached. That's a pretty significant number when you think about the fact that virtually all 60,000 of those deaths would at least theoretically be preventable, as they are now.
In fact, there is no reason why any senior should die because of a bad fall which causes major bodily damage - the reason that so many of the elderly do die as a result of a severe fall is partly because they are unable to recover once a slip occurs, and partly because they aren't being watched closely enough to prevent those slips in the first place. Granted, no one can be watched all the time, even if a dedicated caregiver is right in the same room with the patient and paying at least some attention. However, it is probably safe to say that a large number of the falls which do occur are preventable and that steps can be taken to minimize the risk of deadly falls.
Increasing Incidence of Falls
Why are there so many falls now? The number of deadly falls, as well as the number of non-fatal falls, increases every year, and there is no reason to expect that the numbers will begin to steady out or begin declining. Part of the reason for this is that many more seniors are living longer with the chronic conditions they have, and that means that there are simply more elderly persons around who are eligible for such slips and falls. Since the risk of severe falls always increases with age, and it increases even more when a senior is bothered by some chronic physical condition, it's only natural that the larger risk pool results in a larger number of actual incidents each year.
Here are a few of the medical conditions which contribute to the likelihood of a severe fall:
- Parkinson's Disease
- muscle weakness
- increased use of medication
- difficulty sleeping
- poor vision
- hazards in the home or in the local environment.
Steps which can Help Reduce Slips and Falls
The first step which everyone should take in a household where a senior resides is maybe not the most obvious, but it is one of the most important. There should be a conversation between the family doctor, a senior, and family caretakers, to make everyone aware of the risks incurred by falls, and the possibility of fatality. Doctors can provide medical assistance by screening for potential problems with navigation and balance, and they can also screen any medications which a senior might use, that have any potential for imparting dizziness or disorientation.
No one should consider serious falls an inevitable by-product of aging, and with an attitude that focuses on avoidance rather than hoping for the best, much of the danger for falls can be reduced. In the home, grab bars can be installed in the bathrooms and elsewhere to provide assistance for senior residents wherever they might need it. Slick surfaces can be covered by rugs which have good grip for seniors, so there is less chance of a fall, for instance, on linoleum.
Since bathrooms are particularly prone to deadly slips and falls, these rooms should be assessed for safety, and any areas which seem at risk for promoting slips or falls should be made safer. Bathtubs, for instance, are places where many seniors have been known to slip and fall, then have major consequences as a result of those falls. If there is still a significant risk after installing grip pads, it may be better to simply provide constant assistance throughout the bathing process.
It's better for the elderly to wear shoes and slippers which have non-slip soles, to reduce the chance of sliding on floors, and if there are stairs in the home, it might be better to locate your elderly loved one on the first floor permanently, to eliminate the risk presented by the stairs. Last but not least, make sure to maintain a good line of honest and candid conversation with senior loved ones in your home. If you don't have that, your elderly parent might be too embarrassed to talk about the situation, and might never tell you that he/she has had a fall and suffered injuries.