As we age, our body undergo many changes that can have a negative affect our everyday life. The body's ability to see and hear our environment decreases which, in conjunction with the bodies decrease in muscle strength and coordination, puts the elderly population at a greater risk for falls. To make matters worse, our bones also become more brittle as we age resulting in a greater risk for fractures as well.
When a younger person falls, they can usually get up and bounce back immediately. The same can't be said about the elderly population, and it's important to eliminate any risk factors that may lead to a fall so that we can prevent them.
Strategies to Prevent Falls
Parents of newborn babies often talk about "baby-proofing" their house; meaning, making the environment safe for newborn infants to roam and play in. I believe that you can also "elderly proof" your home to accommodate an aging parent or grand-parent. Here are some safety measures that you can take.
Remove Any Items that May Cause the Elderly to Slip
One of the best things you can do to make your safer is to assess the environment and remove items that has the potential to create a fall incident. Remove throw rugs and any clutter in the hallways, as well as any cord or wires on the floor. If you decide to keep the rugs, make sure that the edges are secure and flat on the floor. Also avoid using floor wax or anything else that can make the floor more slippery. As an added safety measure, non-slip slippers and socks are recommended to further decrease the risk for slips and falls.
Acclimate the Elderly to Their Environment
It's important to familiarize the elderly to their environment to prevent any unexpected surprises that may lead to a fall. Ensure that the elderly person knows the basic layout of the house as well the safety measures, such as handrails and grab bars, that are available around the house. Also, encourage the elderly to use their eyeglasses and hearing aids when possible to help them navigate their surroundings. Lastly, it's important to make sure that they know how to call for help if assistance is needed by alerting them to such things as telephone and buzzer locations.
Modify the Environment
It's also a great practice to modify the living environment and include safety measures wherever possible. Check to make sure that all the lights (especially in hallways) are working and adequately illuminates the environment. Install handrails on staircases and the hallways, as well as additional grab bars in the bathroom for extra support.
Fall incidents are a serious matter in the elderly population and safety measures should be taken to make to ensure a safe environment. Not all falls can be prevented, but by identifying potential risk-factors and implementing the strategies that we mentioned we can play a vital role in decreasing the potential for falls and minimizing injury.