Preventing Falls in an Elderly Home: Review

preventing elderly fallsAccording to the CDC, one in three seniors experiences a fall. Of those that fall, 20 percent have a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head trauma. Therefore, preventing falls in seniors is extremely important. Although this is a topic we have discussed in the past, it is important enough to review again, as it affects so many people. Consider the following ways to make the home of your senior loved one safe.

Stairways

Stairways are dangerous because a fall can easily cause serious injury. Implement these tips to make the stairway safe.

  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairs. Most stairways only have handrails on one side.
  • Be sure the handrails are sturdy. Tighten down any that are wobbly.
  • Clear the stairway of all clutter. No items should be stored on the stairs.
  • Check that the lighting is adequate, so the stairs can be seen when it is dark outside.
  • Take the above steps for all stairways, including those outside that are used to enter the house.

Bathrooms

Falls in a bathroom are so dangerous because of all the hard surfaces. The tile floors and fixtures have no give and the edges of the sink and tub can cause injury. A few changes will make the bathroom much safer.

  • Install a night light for nighttime trips to the bathroom.
  • Install grab bars by the toilet and tub.
  • Ensure the toilet seat is at the right height. Consider buying an elevated seat if the existing seat is too low.
  • Remove trip hazards such as loose carpets, and install non-skid mats.

Living Area

A dark, cluttered home is a trip hazard. Consider the following tips to reduce the risk in the living area.

  • Remove any loose carpeting.
  • If lighting is not adequate, install new lighting. It is difficult to avoid tripping on items you cannot see. Bright light is beneficial.
  • Make sure wires do not run along walkways. Relocate wires to the edges of the room and tack them along the walls.
  • Remove clutter from rooms and walkways. If you must, put items in storage. Clear paths are critical.

Learning More

If you have an elderly loved one living at home, it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of falls. Implementing the above safety tips will help keep your loved one from being injured. For additional information on preventing senior falls, check out our handout and our resource page.

David York Agency can help you elder-proof your home. For more information about David York Agency’s services and their qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.”

10 Things You Can Do To Prevent Falls by: Anita Kamiel, R.N., M.P.S.

friendly caregiver talking to senior woman outdoors


It used to not be this way.

How many times have you heard someone say their father or mother was fine before he or she fell? For many older adults, an unexpected fall can touch off a series of events that end in serious or fatal complications. It can lead to extended hospital stays and disabling conditions that make living independently more of a challenge.

As we age, we begin to lose our balance. Due to their unsteadiness, the elderly are terribly afraid of falling and tend to view themselves as fragile. This is one of the underlying reasons they avoid commonplace activities like walking, shopping and even socializing. Their physical reality combined with their fears often exacerbates their feelings of isolation and depression, all too common in this group.


May be the most serious concern for the elderly.

The National Institute of Health maintains that “falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths” among those 65 and older in the US making fall prevention in the elderly a high priority. The risk only increases as we age with one in five people 85 and older reporting a fall more than once a year compared to one in 10 of those between 65 and 74. Falls in the elderly are often fatal or have long term consequences for performing their activities of daily living.

Elderly patients must be counseled on how to prevent falls in terms of their surroundings and medications. Certain drugs can affect their already compromised sense of balance. They include:

  • anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)
  • hypertensive (high blood pressure) drugs
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers
  • anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • aminoglycosides (a type of antibiotic)
  • diuretics
  • vasodilators
  • certain analgesics (painkillers)
  • certain chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs).

Things you can do.

The National Institute on Aging has a handy tip sheet at Go4Life on preventing falls.

Here are 10 things you can do to prevent falls:

  1. Regular exercise, especially those that work on balance like yoga and tai chi, can help steady the elderly adult as can weight-bearing exercises that slow bone loss and lower-body strengthening exercises.
  2. Elderproofing a home where most falls occur while doing mundane tasks is critical. Tripping hazards from carpets, wires, and clutter must be removed. Half of all falls at home happen in the bathroom and a misstep in this room can spell disaster. Grab bars in places like the shower, tub and toilet as well as proper lighting are essential.
  3. Make regular eye and hearing check-ups to ensure properly fitted glasses with the optimal prescription. Wearing bifocals while walking or on steps may blur the vision enough to cause falls. Proper hearing can ensure no cues are missed.
  4. Regular dizziness may indicate an underlying medical condition with respect to blood pressure, circulation, or sensory issues which should be checked out by a physician.
  5. Physical therapy may be useful for improving balance and walking confidence.
  6. Have the doctor or pharmacist review all medications to identify those most likely to cause dizziness and drowsiness.
  7. Stand up slowly from a seated or lying position.
  8. Wear rubber soled shoes to avoid slipping.
  9. Limit the amount of alcohol consumed.
  10. Get enough sleep.

Interestingly, Ritalin may help prevent falls. In an encouraging breakthrough, Ben Gurion University researchers have found that a single dose of the drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, helps improve balance during walking reducing the risk of falls among seniors. While they admit the results may be due to the improved focus brought about by the medication, they also feel that Ritalin actually has a direct influence on parts of the brain that deal with motor and balance control.


Prevention is key.

Falls can be prevented and a good caregiver can minimize any negative long term effects if one does occur. The importance of caregivers being familiar with maintaining safe environments and routines for the elderly cannot be overstated. Many geriatric social workers and occupational therapists can help set up a safe living space for an elderly person. If you don’t know of one, a home healthcare agency should be able to refer one to you.


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Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS, is the founder and owner of David York Home Healthcare Agency, licensed by the State of New York. She holds a master’s degree in gerontological administration and is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and the latest guidelines for seniors. Thirty years ago, she realized the need for affordable, quality home health aide services provided and supervised by caring individuals. You can contact her at 718-376-7755 or at www.davidyorkagency.com. David York Agency is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Elderly Falls and Fractures from Sarcopenia: Diagnosis and Prevention

Muscle loss and aging typically go hand in hand. As people age, they naturally suffer a loss of physical muscle and mass. Weakened muscles and diminished strength are frequently the cause of elderly falls and fractures.

When muscles start to lose their overall form and function from aging, the disorder is referred to as sarcopenia. Researchers at the University of Southampton have found that between the ages of 40 and 80 the body suffers a significant decline in muscle mass of between 30 to 60 percent. Unsurprisingly, this loss in muscle and strength contributes to frailty and poor health in the elderly.

University of Southampton’s Professor Sian Robinson further states, “Poor diets and being physically inactive are common in older age. Understanding the benefits of maintaining sufficient levels of physical activity and diet quality to prevent sarcopenia is therefore a priority.”

elderly falls

Senior citizens who are experiencing a loss of muscle mass can curb that loss and prevent falls by getting more physical activity (such as low-impact water aerobics, lightweight strength training, or walking) and eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins. Though this is not a cure-all approach to sarcopenia, it can certainly help slow the degeneration of muscle strength.

In addition, a clear fall assessment should be undertaken by healthcare professionals to determine an elderly person’s risk of falling. The International Working Group on Sarcopenia (IWGS) offers a definition of sarcopenia to help identify elderly individuals who may suffer from a fall or fracture due to muscle loss, according to the Official Journal of the Italian Society of Orthopaedics and Medicine. The sarcopenia definition is based on assessing the person’s physical performance and muscle mass. Once an assessment has been made, physicians can focus treatment on preventing muscle loss and improving the strength of existing muscles, in order to prevent elderly falls from occurring.

At David York Agency, we understand the many challenges and risks faced by the aging and elderly and are dedicated to providing care to support them through all of those ups and down. Our team of home healthcare providers can assist with everything from preparing healthy meals and helping maintain personal hygiene to providing safe escorting to appointments and ensuring upkeep of the home.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

Failure: Screening & Reporting Falls in Elderly

There seems to be a big gap with respect to caring for the elderly – reporting and screening for falls. The responsibility for this failure falls to both the elderly experiencing the falls as well as their caregivers and healthcare providers.

453263573A study out of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows 12.6% of
California’s elderly population fall more than one time a year and most do not report it to their medical provider. When they do report the event, the healthcare professional treating them seem to neglect counseling them on fall prevention in 40% of the cases.

Fall prevention is critical to the elderly since it is the leading cause for injury and hospitalization among those 65 and older and the risk only increases as they age. One in 5 people 85 and older report falling more than once a year versus 1 in 10 of those between 65 and 74. The outcomes of a fall in the elderly are often fatal or, at best, have long term consequences for performing their activities of daily living.

While it is incumbent on healthcare professionals to provide counseling to all their elderly patients, these providers must also be informed of any falls by those they treat. Elderly patients must be encouraged to report any falls so that they can be counseled how to prevent falls and to elder proof their surroundings. Also, they need to warn them about certain medications that can exacerbate their lack of balance which naturally declines as they age. Those medications include*:

  • anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)
  • hypertensive (high blood pressure) drugs
  • sedatives
  • tranquilizers
  • anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
  • aminoglycosides (a type of antibiotic)
  • diuretics
  • vasodilators
  • certain analgesics (painkillers)
  • certain chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs).

*From NIH Senior Health: Balance Problems: Causes and Prevention

 

At David York Home Healthcare Agency, we could provide direction to caregivers as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. David York Agency provides skilled home health aide services for the elderly in New York in their homes and is abreast of all the latest guidelines for seniors.  Our home health aides are certified and fully trained on how to safely care for the elderly. We would be happy to discuss your case with you.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit our website.  You can also like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

Afraid to Fall!

How many times have you heard someone say my father or mother was fine before s/he fell?  For many older adults, an unexpected fall can lead to a series of events that end in serious or fatal complications.  As a result, many elderly are terribly afraid of falling.  The likelihood of falling increases even more as the elderly begin to lose their balance.  This fear of falling is one underlying reason for the elderly avoiding commonplace activities like walking, shopping, socializing.  In reality, though, most falls occur at home while doing mundane activities.  This fear helps to explain why the elderly view themselves as fragile and their caregivers would do well to adjust their thinking to this reality as well.  These falls not only make living independently more of a challenge, they also increase the risk of an early death.

Dont just fallAccording to the National Institute of Health, “falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths” among older adults in the US.  The most common fractures from falls are:  spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand.  About 20-30% of those who fall suffer from hip fractures and head trauma.  And, 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

The Center for Disease Control says that one 1 out of 3 aged 65 and older fall every year and people 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those aged between 65 and 74 to be admitted to a long term care facility for a year or more.  In 2010, 2.3 million non-fatal falls were treated in the emergency room and more than 662,000 were hospitalized.  Estimated direct medical costs for these injuries were $30 billion. 

Things to do to prevent falls include:

  • Regular exercise, especially those that work on balance like yoga and tai chi, can help steady the elderly adult.
  • Have the doctor or pharmacist review all medications to identify those most likely to cause dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Make regular eye check-ups to ensure they are fitted with glasses with the optimal prescription for clear vision.  Interestingly, even wearing bifocals while walking or on steps may blur the vision enough to cause falls.
  • Elder proofing a home taking elderly needs and deficits into account much as we do for babies is often neglected.  Tripping hazards from carpets, wires, and clutter need to be removed.  Grab bars in places like the shower, tub, and toilet as well as proper lighting often prove essential.
  • Physical therapy may be useful for improving balance and walking confidence.  Your doctor or health care provider may be able to make that referral.
  • Regular dizziness may indicate an underlying medical condition with respect to blood pressure, circulation, or sensory issues which should be checked out by a physician.

Falls can be prevented and a good caregiver can minimize any negative long term effects if one does occur.  David York Agency is intimately aware of what a safe living space for an elderly person should look like and can help set that up.  Our aides are adept at anticipating potentially dangerous situations before they occur to avoid unnecessary falls.  However, if a fall should occur off our watch, our care givers will give the highest standard of care to assure the best possible outcome for your loved one.

David York Agency provides skilled home health aide services for home healthcare. We would be happy to discuss your case with you.  Visit our website at http://davidyorkhomehealthcare.com/ or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.