If you worry about a parent taking a fall at home, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year nearly 2.5 million seniors are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. In fact, one in three of those 65 and older will experience a fall in the next 12 months, and many will end up hospitalized as a result. Chances are your mom will never fall and all will be fine. But what if she slips? If she fractures a hip or hits her head, what happens then?
Why Seniors Fall
An older adult might take an unexpected fall for all kinds of reasons, and while some may be obvious and easily addressed, others are not. Among the former: Common home hazards that might cause tripping, or inadequate footwear on slippery floors. Uneven steps, bunched-up rugs, and everyday clutter left lying in pathways can trip up even the nimblest among us. Factor in problems with vision or balance, or lower-body weakness or medications that cause dizziness, and it's easy to see how a senior in particular might be vulnerable to accidents inside the home.
That independent living comes with certain risks is something most of us have learned to accept. Still, “active aging" doesn't have to be a gamble, especially when it comes to the prevention of falls.
So how can you help your parent avoid taking a tumble within their own home? First, focus on the basics. Ensure that any obstacles that might trip them up are removed or relocated to minimize the dangers. Install handrails on stairways and grab bars in the shower. Use non-skid area rugs or add a non-skid pad. Items like dishes should be stored within easy reach. And don't neglect the need for good lighting: Put night lights anywhere they might be needed after dark.
The other big key to fall prevention: ongoing consultation with healthcare providers. Tell mom or dad's doctor about your concerns, and have them evaluate their risk for falling. Also see what they say about exercise. Studies have shown that even moderate workouts on a regular basis can greatly improve senior safety.
Of course, even the best fall-prevention strategies can't guarantee accidents won't happen. For this reason, the National Institute on Aging recommends seniors rely on medical-alarm systems that can quickly connect them to help in an emergency. We agree, and that's why we designed the Lively, a waterproof mobile personal emergency response device that provides instant access to an emergency line with a medical alert agent on the other end. Lively, which can also be connected to a caregiver's smartphone through an app we call GreatCall Link, ensures a senior alone is never more than a button's push away from someone who can help in the event of a fall.
So if you're concerned about the potential for falls, take two steps: talk to your parent's doctor and focus on prevention. But also take a moment to line up that emergency medical connection. When you do, you'll finally find real peace of mind.