There are few issues involving aging that create more concern for the elderly and those caring for the elderly than falling.
A fall can leave a person injured and unable to get to a phone – hence the various forms of medical alert devices on the market – and even if no bones are broken or serious injuries are involved, falls eat into a person’s confidence and mental outlook.
Fortunately, growing awareness is helping the elderly identify causes of falling. Understanding the reasons behind falls can help reduce the number of incidents and their severity.
First on any list of possible causes are changes to a person’s vision. Changes in vision are part of the aging process and both eyes don’t necessarily change at the same rate. In addition to blurry vision the elderly can suffer from changes in depth perception that can put them at risk of falling.
Attempting to step off of a curb, or up onto a sidewalk, actions that once were taken for granted, can suddenly become hazardous. A visit to the eye doctor and a review of one’s lens prescription can correct a problem that may not have been apparent.
In addition to changes in eyesight, the elderly also can suffer from changes in medications. As an example, reactions to medications can cause dizziness, another factor that can lead to falls.
Medical conditions involving the inner ear also can be a source of imbalance. If the inner ear becomes infected one’s sense of equilibrium can be adversely affected leading to dizziness, vertigo and falls.
Virtually every authority on falls involving the elderly recommends a visit to the doctor as a first step to finding what may be increasing the risk of falling. Various diseases that afflict the elderly such as diabetes or high blood pressure can lead to the conditions that increase the chances for falling and a doctor could spot these conditions before they become chronic.
In addition, alterations to living conditions in the home can help the elderly prevent falls. For instance, simply improving the lighting can help the elderly be more aware of possible hazards on paths that they once took for granted and assumed were safe.
Items of furniture that have been placed close to normal travel routes for years suddenly can become roadblocks, especially if vision changes are involved. Caregivers also can help by removing hazards such as electrical cords, making sure rugs don’t pose a hazard, or that floors aren’t slippery.
Caregivers for the elderly also can recommend assistance such as a cane or walker that can help return confidence to people who no longer are steady on their feet. Experts note that some resistance to using a cane or walker may be encountered so patience and understanding should be used when convincing an elderly person that their device of choice can help them avoid serious injury.
There are other ways to assist the elderly in the homes including installing safety seats and railings in the shower, along with non-slip mats; retrofitting stairs with non-slip treads; placing hand rails at strategic locations along often-traveled routes inside the home; armrests and raised seats for toilets; and even making sure that footwear has non-slip soles.
The simple truth about getting old is that change is part of a daily routine that once seemed unchangeable. Falls are part of getting older, but they can be controlled and in many cases even eliminated with the proper attention paid to an elderly person’s medical conditions and surroundings.