If you have an aging parent or another senior loved one in your family, you likely worry about their safety at home. And with good reason — falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.
Falls threaten the safety and comfort of older adults, and can compromise their ability to live safely and happily at home. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect Mom or Dad from a serious fall.
In recognition of National Safety Week this June, here are four (4) easy ways you can protect your senior loved one from a serious fall:
1. Encourage your aging parent to exercise regularly.
While you can take steps at home to prevent falls, the best way to prevent them is to keep Mom or Dad in strong physical condition. And that starts with exercise.
Research shows that 1 in 3 adults over 60 suffers from severe muscle loss (also known as sarcopenia). Have you ever noticed older adults who make that “shuffling” sound when they walk? That’s likely caused by sarcopenia.
In particular, sarcopenia has a disproportionate effect on the lower half of the body, including the hips, legs, and core. Strong muscles in these areas are critical to preventing falls and maintaining independence.
Exercise is the best way to stave off muscle loss and keep your senior loved ones safe and strong on their feet. Always consult a doctor before you or your loved one starts any type of exercise program. A doctor may also recommend physical therapy or working with a trainer to help Mom or Dad learn and master the exercises while staying safe.
2. Monitor medications closely.
One of the top side effects of medications that are common among seniors is dizziness or lightheadedness. These directly correlate to falls among the elderly. In particular, seniors may accidentally take too many pills, or take their doses too close together, which can increase the severity of those side effects.
It’s important to monitor your loved one’s medications, and ask questions when at the doctor. Sometimes doctors may not realize your mom or dad has been prescribed certain medications with that side effect. Asking questions and discussing alternatives can help prevent possible falls or other issues down the line.
Also, help Mom or Dad stay on top of medication schedules and dosages to prevent accidental overdoses. Pre-measuring medications and scheduling reminders (on cell phones and smart devices in particular) can keep your loved one on track with medications. To truly be sure Mom or Dad is taking the correct medications at the correct times, senior home care services can provide extra peace of mind.
3. Improve safety throughout the home.
Small changes can make a big impact when it comes to falls. Not sure where to start? Try these:
- Add double-sided tape to loose rugs or carpets to prevent slips
- Fix loose or uneven steps and railings, and keep items off stairs to prevent tripping
- Be sure hallways, staircases and other well-traveled areas of the home have adequate light
- Upgrade to a walk-in bathtub in the bathroom
- Add a non-slip mat to the bathtub, bathroom and kitchen
- Move items within reach in the kitchen
4. Ensure eyeglasses and eyesight are carefully monitored.
Aging has a considerable impact on the eyes, including elements like depth perception, cataracts, glaucoma, inability to react to changes in brightness, macular degeneration and more.
If left untreated (or inadequately treated), any one of these impairments can significantly increase your loved one’s risk of falling (and can have a considerably negative impact on their quality of life). Outdated eyeglass prescriptions can also cause difficulties.
Be sure Mom or Dad visits the opthamologist at least once per year (check with your doctor if your loved one has chronic eye health issues, as more frequent checkups may be necessary) to maintain or improve eye health, prevent further issues and ultimately, reduce the risk of falls caused by eyesight troubles.