FALLS

FALLS CAN HAPPEN AT ANY AGE - Yet Falls Are Common Among The Aging

Falls happen frequently to the aging whether they live alone, with family or in a facility. They are a major cause for injury-related visits, to doctors or medical facilities, for those over 65 years of age. There are a number of reasons why this happens but is often linked to the physical and mental well-being of the individual. As the body ages, certain physical changes take place which are normal, but must be taken into consideration when going about daily activities. Some of these changes include:

·Slowed reaction/response time when something happens
·Weakened immune system which causes one to be more sensitive to germs, bacteria, and viruses
·Thinning of the skin which results in easier bruising and breaking of tissue                                                  
Weakened/brittle bones which result in easy breakage
·Diminished vision results in an inability to see as clearly
Diminished sense of taste and smell which result in loss of appetite
These changes with the advance of medicine, surgery, therapy, and care can often be corrected or controlled to minimize falls. The most important point is, someone (the individual or someone in their environment) has to be paying attention. This is not easy when you consider the daily activities that take place in caring for an elderly person. Even when the person is healthy enough to manage their own care, there often is denial (maybe I imaged this.) Accidents happen, therefore, a single fall is not necessarily indicative of a major problem.  However, when they become frequent things need to be checked to find the root of the problem. This requires:
Questioning the individual as well as
Looking into their physical condition and meds they are taking,
Searching for problems in their environment,  
Proper usage of medical equipment.

Individual Interview:  Falls should be taken seriously in the elderly.  Though the individual may appear to be alright there could be internal problems that may develop into serious problems later, and things can happen quickly.

Ask what they remembered happened, what led to the fall
Seek medical attention
After settling in, once at home; based upon your    conversation with the individual check to see what you think may have been the cause

Physical/Medical Issues: Many of the elderly over 65 years of age have multiple health issues and are taking various medications which may lead to falls. Weak muscles, disabilities, confusion, dizziness, dehydration as well as not taking meds properly can cause this problem. Check the place where meds are kept to get an idea of what type, amount, when they should be taken and who prescribed it. Talk with individual’s doctors to see if they are aware of all the meds the individual is taking. Sometimes if they are going to different doctors, the doctor is not aware of other meds they may be taking. This is serious in and of itself because different meds can have different side effects, allergic reactions, and interaction with other medicines. Talk with their doctor at length and take notes so you have a clear understanding of the doctor’s directions. If possible, try to get some form of exercise into the individual’s day. Walking is wonderful and if you can go along, it gives the two of you time together. If not,try to get another family member or friend to help with this. Chair exercises and stretches are useful as well in providing muscle strength. You might want to explain the connection between muscle strength, balance, walking gait and fall prevention. Gathering muscle strength from exercise will also help in overcoming their fears.

Environmental Issues: Pay close attention to the following, as one or more may have a significant impact on falling:

Bright lighting
Have vision checked  
Pets in the way
Uneven floors, patios, steps, sidewalks and driveways should be repaired
Rugs and carpet (low nap is best) on smooth slippery floors, such as some vinyl and wooden floors; rugs should be taped to floors to prevent them from slipping
Clutter/disorder removed or cleared
Extension cords removed from walking area, place along baseboards
Broken or unstable furniture repaired/removed
Lack of railings and/or grab bars and mats for wet surfaces
Chair/bench in shower or bath for easier transfer
These changes with the advance of medicine, surgery, therapy, and care can often be corrected or controlled to minimize falls. The most important point is, someone (the individual or someone in their environment) has to be paying attention. This is not easy when you consider the daily activities that take place in caring for an elderly person. Even when the person is healthy enough to manage their own care, there often is denial (maybe I imaged this.) Accidents happen, therefore, a single fall is not necessarily indicative of a major problem.  However, when they become frequent things need to be checked to find the root of the problem. This requires:Questioning the individual as well asLo Weather conditions such as snow, ice, even rain - best to remain at home inside Proper Use of Medical Equipment: Frequently if equipment is not properly installed or not used according to directions, this can cause problems. 1) Walkers and canes are assistive devices, but if they are not maintained or used properly they will  possibly create an accident. 2) Breathing apparatus with cords should be coiled or placed out of walking paths. They will create an accident by getting the individual entwined in the cord or stumbling over it.  3) Far reaching while in bed could end with the individual falling out of bed; you might want to invest in a tong type device used for picking up objects. 4) Practice use of motorized vehicles in an open space, to prevent accidents. 5) A ramp may be needed for safe passage in or out of the home for those disabled. 6) Learn the proper technique for transferring an individual.

According to the CDC, one in three seniors, 65 years or older experience falls. Twenty to thirty percent of these create moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, head traumas, and loss of independence. In view of the longer life span of baby-boomers, senior issues such as medical costs have become a hot political topic for the federal government. With medical costs, reaching far into the billions of dollars, they are looking for ways to reduce these figures.  Prevention approaches are taking place through housing modifications, urban planning, community development and political campaigns.  The focus is to keep seniors in their own homes as opposed to senior facilities. By doing so, the hope is, this will drive down the costs for medical care. It is cheaper to have in-home care as opposed to hospital care.

Preventive action is the key to staying healthy and enjoying life. Have those regular doctor visits, read and gather information on good nutrition, and by all means get some exercise. Be sure to wear appropriate and comfortable foot-ware whatever you maybe doing. Certain types of slippers or shoes can contribute to a spill. Should an individual that you are caring for happen to fall and you have difficulty getting them up; call 911, it is not worth the risk of both of you not being able to get up.

After calling 911 the family member or caregiver should listen intently to answer questions and follow directions of the dispatcher. Attempt to stay calm and reassure the individual that things will be alright. Do not attempt to help the person to get  up. (there may be injuries you can't see) Do not attempt to give the person food, drink nor medication. Do not leave the fallen person unattended. If there are others there at the time, have them to watch the person while you quickly gather any necessary medical information (name of primary physician, insurance information, list of medications/allergies and your own personal effects. If possible clear area so that medical staff can get to patient with enough room for a stretcher.
If you are alone at the time of the fall and hurt; try to move as little as possible. If you can reach the phone, call a friend or neighbor for help; if that's not possible, then call 911. Let them know you are alone.

After a fall a safety assessment or corrective action of your surroundings should be made as soon as possible.
Some added good points to consider are:
Electric appliances rather than gas
Padding on sharp corners of furniture
Check and set water heater no higher than 120 degrees
An alert system which can place a call for help