As the adult child of a senior parent, we live in fear of the day we get that phone call telling us that something has happened to one of our parents. Sometimes it’s a medical emergency, but most of the time it’s that our parent has fallen. Falls occur in one out of every 3 adults over the age of 65. Each year, more than 1.6 million senior adults go to the emergency department for fall related injuries. Among older adults, falls are the number one cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence, and injury deaths.
Hip fractures are one of the most serious types of fall injury. They are a leading cause of injury and loss of independence, among older adults. Most healthy, independent older adults who are hospitalized for a broken hip are able to return home or live on their own after treatment and rehabilitation. Most of those who cannot return to independent living after such injuries had physical or mental disabilities before the fracture. Many of them will need long-term care.
What can I do to prevent my Mom or Dad from falling and breaking her hip? While falls in senior adults are common, there are things we can do to reduce the risk of falling for our parents.
Do a walk thru at your Mom’s home and ask yourself these questions:
- Are there clear pathways throughout the house?
- If your Mom or Dad uses a walker or a cane, make sure there is enough room to maneuver without tripping or bumping into furniture.
- Are there steps or variations in floor height inside the house?
- Is there adequate light, especially at night when Mom or Dad may get up to go to the bathroom?
- Make sure there are night lights in the bathrooms, hallways and in the bedroom. De-clutter the house. Let’s face it; we all like to hang on to things. Clutter, especially when it makes it difficult to maneuver with a walker or cane, can lead to falls.
If your Mom or Dad has an unsteady gait or has fallen in the past ask her physician if she can get physical therapy to improve her gait and help with endurance. Medicare and most insurance cover the cost of physical therapy and it can even be provided in the home if necessary. Ask your Mom’s physician to check her Vitamin D level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to falls in senior adults and if the level is low, ask about a Vitamin D supplement.
Remember, falls can be serious and often have other serious consequences or complication down the road. But you can be pro-active now and take the necessary steps to prevent fall risks today.