The risk of seniors falling increases as they get older. 33% of individuals aged between 65- and 80-years old fall at least once a year, and this statistic rises to 50% for those above 80 years old. Falls are a leading cause of injury for older adults. Not all falls may be fatal, but falls account for 40% of injury-related deaths.
Fall prevention in elderly care in Singapore must be a priority. Knowing the personal risk factors, home hazards as well as what to do in the event falls occur can help you make your home or community environment a safer place for your elderly loved ones.
Falls can be especially disabling for an older adult. Studies show fracture repair is negatively impacted by the ageing process. As such, older patients with broken bones, hip fractures and head injuries take much longer to heal and require more bed rest. Some falls may lead to permanent disability and even death.
Suffering serious injuries from a sudden drop can have mental repercussions as well. Those who have experienced falls before can develop a fear of falling and they may lose their self-confidence in going about their daily lives.
This may result in a more sedentary lifestyle and further increase their likelihood of falling again. Elderly persons need to stay active to maintain bone health and avoid future falls.
If your loved one has suffered a fall, remember to stay calm and take a few moments to read the situation. Do not attempt to move or lift your loved one right away or you might cause further injury. Instead, keep in mind the following:
In the event a family member collapses, you should come to their immediate aid. Check for any injuries to determine the gravity of the situation.
If they are conscious and able to respond, you can ask questions regarding the pain, its intensity and its location. If there are any open wounds, cover them with a clean bandage or cloth and put light pressure to control any bleeding. You can also do a quick check if there are any fractures or dislocation.
If they are in serious pain or unconscious, do not attempt to move them. Instead, call for an ambulance by dialing 995 and let the paramedic determine the condition of your loved one.
For serious falls, you can call emergency services and they will dispatch an ambulance to take your loved one to the hospital.
In the case, it is not a serious fall and your loved one declines to go to the hospital, it is still important to report the event to their doctor and make an appointment for a check-up. Most falls are not reported and this increases the risk of falling again due to injury from a previous fall or unknown medical problem.
A doctor will be able to do a thorough examination for any broken bones or head injuries that can cause a problem if not treated. They can also do tests to see if there is an underlying medical issue such as blood pressure or over the counter medications that caused the accident.
Going to the doctor and addressing these problems will ensure your loved ones stay healthy and reduce the risk of falls.
Personal risk factors for falls of older adults depend on the diet, bone health, muscle weakness, blood pressure, hours of sleep, chronic conditions, frequency of physical activity, and capability of performing activities of daily living.
There are also environmental hazards to take note of, especially in their living space. Educating yourself in these risk factors is crucial in preventing falls of an elderly family member.
A lack of sleep and exercise in older adults can reduce the alertness of the mind and body. When a person does not have enough rest, it affects their mental cognition and body coordination making them more prone to falling over. Similarly, a lack of physical activity leads to muscle weakness which also increases their risk of falling.
Chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, postural hypotension and arthritis can also cause a sudden drop. Medications for these chronic conditions are also a risk factor as they may have side effects that affect balance and vision.
Homes hazard such as broken floors or steps can lead to unwanted accidents while wet floors can be slippery when stepped on. Rugs and carpets can also become hazards as they can cause your family member to trip.
Those with problems with eyesight have a hard deciphering hard edges and uneven surfaces that might lead them to fall. Wrong prescription lenses and eye diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma can increase the chances of falling.
It is important to be aware of the possible safety hazards in your own home. Most falls among older adults happen at home.
Fall proofing your home can greatly reduce the chances of unwanted accidents. Investing in stable furniture and making use of assistive devices can make a positive impact on your loved one’s home environment. The following are 10 useful ways and modifications you can apply to your home to avoid falls.
- Lighting. Make sure to keep areas frequented by your loved ones are well-lit so they can see where they are going.
- Remove clutter. Ensure that there will be a clear path for them to walk from one point to another by reducing clutter such as wires or carpets.
- Staircase safety. Make sure the staircase is well lit and install grab bars.
- Accessibility of daily essentials. Limit your loved ones from reaching for things they need on high shelves or going up and down the stairs. Keep their needs in easy to reach places or on one floor to make it easier and safer for them.
- Clean up spills immediately. Wear shoes with non-slip soles identify areas where seniors move about and add non-slip mats if possible.
- Bathroom Safety. Install grab bars near the toilet. Consider using a shower chair and a portable shower head to reduce elderly loved ones slipping in the shower.
- Hire a care provider. If your loved one has difficulty performing activities of daily living on their own, hire a maid for the elderly or a caregiver to provide them assistance.
- Stay Active. Encourage your loved ones to include exercises in their day to stay healthy and keep their bones strong. Those with poor balance can improve with balance exercises in physical therapy. Physical therapy can also help those with difficulty walking and reduce joint pain. Eating food rich in Vitamin D such as fatty fish can keep bones strong and prevent falls.
- Mobility Aids. Provide assistive devices such as walking frames or canes for those who have difficulty walking or foot problems. An occupational therapist can help you decide which aid is the most appropriate for your loved ones to use.
- Seek professional advice. An in-person care assessment can give a holistic view of your loved one’s needs and can provide professional insight on how to prevent falls at home.
Knowing the risk factors for falls and home hazards for older adults is only the first step in ensuring a safe home environment for them. Modifying their homes to suit their needs can reduce their risk of falling. The EASE (Enhancement for Active Seniors) Grant helps finance falls prevention changes you are implementing at home.
If a fall should occur, remind your loved one to go in for a check-up. Doctors can check to see for broken bones or hairline fractures that you may not have noticed but can cause problems in the long run. Meanwhile, a physical therapist can help a family member recover from a serious fall and fear of falling and help them regain their confidence.
It can also be a challenge to look after family members who need assistance, especially if you have work or don’t live in the same house. Eldercare services such as RC caregivers can ensure a certified caregiver is looking after your loved one. You can apply for Home Caregiving grants and Caregivers Training grants to help alleviate the costs of enlisting additional help.
Seeking professional help and advice on falls prevention can provide disease control as well as ensure the safety and good health of your elderly loved ones.