Posts Tagged ‘falls’

Falls are a Big Deal for the Elderly

While it may seem like no big deal for a young person to slip and fall, falls and their resulting injuries can prove fatal for an elderly person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an elderly person dies from a fall every 20 minutes in the United States.

There are a number of factors that make falls more dangerous for people over age 65. Bone density decreases with age, and weaker bones mean falls can result in fractures and broken bones. The elderly also have to deal with side effects from medications, poor vision and reduced mobility—all of which increase the risk for falls. People are also at risk for traumatic brain injury as a result of a fall. Hospital stays and recovery tend to take longer for the elderly, and according to a study published at the University of Rochester Medical Center, only 22% of fall victims age 70+ were able to regain independent living status after being discharged from a fall-related hospitalization.

Fortunately many steps can be taken to fall proof your loved one’s home. Adding no-slip mats and grab bars in the shower, keeping the floor clear of clutter, and using good lighting can help prevent falls around the house. Taking bone-building supplements and exercising can strengthen bones and improve mobility.

Falls for the elderly are a serious issue, and improving awareness of the risks and preventative steps can go a long way to preserving quality of life for many older Americans.

 

 

June is National Safety Month

white male looking at assortment of prescription drugs

You might not realize it, but injuries, especially preventable ones, are a leading cause of disability. Tragically, many injuries can also be fatal, and according to the National Safety Council, they are a leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 1 and 44. The most common (and preventable) injuries are caused by prescription medication overdoses, distracted driving and fall-related injuries in the elderly.

Falls are especially concerning for older Americans; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as many as 1 in 3 seniors suffer a fall each year and that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in the elderly. Quality of life post-fall can suffer dramatically if an individual has mobility issues as a result of the fall or develops a fear of falling that limits physical activity and social engagement. The good news is that falls are not an inevitable part of aging. Doing strength and stability exercises as you age can help improve balance and make falls less likely. Keep floors clear of clutter and make sure objects like rugs and furniture do not pose tripping hazards. Good lightning, especially near stairs and in the evening, can help too.

If you are worried about a loved one’s prescription medication usage, encourage them to seek help. Visit the National Safety Council’s website to learn more about the dangers of prescription overdoses. Distracted driving is another concerning behavior that could lead to personal or outside injury or death. Turn off your cell phone while you are driving or put it in the glove box out of reach to remove temptation.

Knowing which activities are high risk for injuries and making small, intentional changes in your life and your loved ones lives can help keep you, and others, safe!

Celebrating Older Americans Month: Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.

The Elders

Home Care Plus is celebrating Older Americans Month this May! This year’s theme, Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow. is focused on educating older adults on how they can stay safe from unintended injuries. Older Americans Month, sponsored each May by the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL), is placing emphasis on injury prevention, including fire, motor vehicle, and consumer product safety; improper use of medicine; and more.

According to ACL, “unintentional injuries to this population result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites falls as the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those aged 65+. More than 21,700 older adults die from falls each year, and every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an Emergency Department for a fall-related injury. The medical cost of falls is currently estimated to top $30 billion each year.

It is a common misconception that falls are a normal part of aging, and they can be prevented through a combination of interventions. These include exercising, getting a fall risk assessment, reviewing medications, having vision and hearing checked, and making the home environment safe. More tips are available at www.ncoa.org/FallsPrevention.

The CDC has prepared a home fall prevention safety checklist, called Check For Safety, that is a great resource for anyone looking to fall proof their or their loved ones’ home. Put safety first as you age to celebrate many healthy tomorrows!

Spinal Cord Injuries on the Rise in the Elderly

According to a recent John’s Hopkins study, more spinal injuries are due to falls than car crashes. This study highlights the importance of taking fall prevention for the elderly seriously, especially because there is a higher mortality rate with these types of injuries. For more information, read the healthfinder.gov article Falls Top Car Crashes as Leading Cause of U.S. Spinal Injuries.

Looking Out For Your Eyes!

Protecting your eyesight as you age might be more important to your health and quality of life than you realize. Older people with poor eyesight often have to curtail activities that bring them joy and a sense of independence, including driving, reading, and watching TV.  According to the CDC’s publication, The State of Vision, Aging and Public Health in America, elderly people experiencing vision loss are more likely to have other health problems, suffer from falls or other injuries, be depressed and/or socially withdrawn and even have a higher mortality rate. Given what is at stake, making an annual visit to the eye doctor should be a no brainer.

There are several different types of eye disease that can strike as we age, including cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, which reduces the amount of light that can enter the eye. Over 24 million Americans age 40 and up suffer from cataracts, and corrective surgery for cataracts is extremely routine and has a 95% success rate. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for patients with cataracts, having cataract surgery reduced their likelihood of suffering a hip fracture from a fall in the year following surgery as compared to cataract patients who did not undergo corrective surgery. Good eyesight is critical to maintaining good balance, and cataracts often cause vision changes that affect postural stability. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss or blindness if it’s not treated early. Age-related macular degeneration affects a person’s ability to see fine detail. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels of the retina.

Fortunately, roughly half of all vision problems can be corrected or lessened through preventative eye care or corrective treatments. Lifestyle changes can help too—smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and injuries can all contribute to vision loss but can be managed by you. It is recommended that adults have a comprehensive eye exam, including dilation, at least once every couple of years. Looking out for your eyes can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life!

Great article on the benefits of exercise and yoga in preventing falls

senior yoga

Perhaps you are one of the growing number of baby boomers in our country, or maybe you are hoping to help your aging parents  remain independent as long as possible. A great way to keep them safe from falls as they age is to encourage them to exercise and stay active. The Post and Courier’s article Preventing falls becomes tantamount as baby boomers move into their senior years is a great read for anyone entering their senior years.

Taking Senior Safety Seriously: Part 2

As part of our focus on safety (June is National Safety Month!), our blog last week looked at some common safety concerns around the house—a sort of “senior proofing” exercise for any caregiver. Falls are a particularly common and dangerous hazard for seniors, but other safety concerns should be on a caregiver’s radar as well.

Driving is an activity that can become less safe as we age. Unfortunately it is never easy to have a conversation with your aging loved one about their ability to drive, but it is important to monitor them closely to prevent dangerous accidents. Declining eyesight and slower reaction times can make driving more dangerous. Medications and their side effects could also impair a driver’s cognitive ability. If you notice your loved one coming home with scratches or dents on their car or if they start getting in minor traffic incidents, it may be time to take away the keys. Fortunately many cities offer alternate forms of transportation for the elderly, and in-home care companies such as Home Care Plus can often handle a client’s driving needs. Offering solutions to your loved one will help them retain their sense of independence and will make giving up driving easier.

Many aging adults take multiple prescription medications to manage the myriad medical conditions they suffer from. Side effects can alter everything from moods to mobility, which can make everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning and running errands less safe. Certain drugs don’t mix well with others, so it’s important that your loved one’s doctor and pharmacist know of all the medications they are taking so they can screen for potential problems. Keeping an accurate list of meds is even more important if they are seeing multiple doctors or using multiple pharmacies. Remembering which drugs need to be taken with food or how many times a day to take a certain medication can be tricky, so consider using one of the many apps available today, such as Apple’s MedCoach app, to help you and your loved one keep track.

Poor hearing or declining vision can make everyday life challenging. Navigating the house, going for a walk, cooking—these skills will have to be re-learned as the physical changes progress. Spend time with your loved one in the kitchen to make sure they are still cautious and observant when using the stove and other appliances. Encourage your loved one to use timers when they cook. Consider investing in a phone with a larger keypad so it is easier to see. Home medical alert or emergency devices are a great idea if your love one is home alone for extended periods of time.

National Safety Month is a great time to do a little “senior proofing” around your or your loved one’s house. Most aging adults want to remain in their own home as long as possible, so if it is no longer safe for them to be there alone, bring in a caring, qualified company like Home Care Plus to help keep them safe.

 

Taking Senior Safety Seriously: Part 1

Most people have heard of “babyproofing” a home—things like putting up gates around stairs, locks on cabinets, and safety plugs in electrical outlets—to make sure a crawling baby or running toddler can’t hurt themselves. But how many of us have considered “senior proofing” our homes when we suddenly become responsible for the care of an elderly parent or relative? There are a number of common senior safety concerns that every caregiver should be aware of and take preventative steps to make their homes safer to navigate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults ages 65 and older fall each year. Falls are the most frequent cause of injury in the elderly. Hip fractures and head trauma are common injuries caused by falls and can even be fatal. Given the severity of the injuries, fall prevention should be at the top of every caregiver’s list when it comes to senior safety.

Why do the elderly fall? There are a number of reasons, including poor eyesight, loss of balance, clutter on the floor, and decreased mobility due to age or disease just to name a few. So what can you do to reduce the likelihood of a fall? Encourage your aging loved one to stay active, which will help them maintain their balance and coordination. Install grab bars in bathrooms and put non-skid mats on the floor and in tubs, and make sure there are handrails on all stairs. Repair any flooring that is a tripping hazard, and keep floors and hallways free from clutter and electrical cords. Make sure the house is well-lit and put nightlights in hallways and bathrooms to increase visibility at nighttime. Be aware of any side effects from medications or diseases that might make your loved one dizzy or affect coordination. Keep items they use frequently close by so they don’t have to hunt all over the house for things they need. For more tips on fall prevention, visit the National Institute on Aging’s website.

Visit our blog next week for part two of Taking Senior Safety Seriously!