Fall Factors

One of the top reasons that we get calls or inquiries about assisted living is when families have an elderly loved one who has had a fall.  Falls among seniors are unfortunately very common.  It was recently reported in the news that falls are the number one causes of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among people aged 65 and older.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.  Now, falls can still occur in any environment but knowing what to watch for and having others looking out for you can help avoid potential falls.

 

Here are some key factors from the National Council on Aging to consider regarding falls:

 

  • Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall.
  • Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.
  • Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.
  • Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.
  • Chronic conditions: More than 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.

 

Be aware of these factors and keep the dialogue open with your loved ones regarding falls and the issues related to them.  Ask questions and be proactive if you notice changes in health and/or behavior.

Advertisements

If the Shoe Fits

As I continue my discussion about falls, I thought I might provide a little comic relief to share my most embarrassing fall.  Picture this.  It’s my little girl’s dance recital dress rehearsal.  Mamas, Grandmas, and some Dads are all up in arms trying to make sure they have their little Susie’s right shoes with the right costume and heaven knows we must have on ENOUGH makeup to be “stage appropriate” too.  Well amongst all this chaos we had a routine (or at least a performer) that was about to be cut because one of our senior level dancers was sick and was not able to partner with the junior performer for this cute little number.  Well as they say “the show must go on” and our ever improvising and quick thinking director called out from the curtain…” Is Heather Bradley in the building”?  SAY WHAT??  Oh dear woman, you do jest.  Nope, she was quite serious.  And within moments this child with big crocodile tears that was about to have to sit out was being twirled and tossed by yours truly.  So I fell on my face on the stage during the routine right?  No…wait for it.  We got through the routine and I was feeling pretty good for a washed up former tap dancer.  So as I slipped back into my wedges and started bounding down the stairs…it happened.  I fell down the steps with such graceless effort that I literally fell flat on my face.  Well, I fell on my hands to be more specific.  My friend Renee said I jumped back up so quickly though that I looked like a cartoon character.  So as I jump up to quickly assure everyone that I am truly okay, I make a discovery.  My shoe is broken, my watch is broken and I soon discover at the ER (where my friend Sam insisted I get checked out when she sees blood coming from my wrist) that my hand is also quite broken.  So when I speak to you about falls, trust me I am a professional.  It takes a pro to fall off a stage in front of an auditorium packed full of people.

shoes

So the shoe.  Let me tell you it was the source of the fall.  So when I tell you that ill-fitting shoes can be a hazard, I know from first-hand experience.  Now granted most elderly adults are not bounding down the steps of a stage.  But if your shoes don’t fit properly you can be stepping off a curb or standing up for that matter and the shoes can become a fall hazard.  Another important thing to consider is foot care.  Many seniors don’t have the ability to trim their toenails anymore.  Throw in the fact that many are diabetic and this adds additional risk and you can see how toenails can wreak havoc and up the ante in the fight against falls.  Foot pain and poor footwear have been cited by the Center for Disease Control as one of the major contributing factors for falls in the elderly.  So be sure that you check your loved ones’ shoes and make sure that they fit well and are in good condition.  Also, check their toenails and see that they are trimmed regularly by someone that knows what they are doing and especially if they are diabetic.  Regular checkups are important, right?  It is equally important to get your feet checked out too!

foot-exam_thumb

Be an advocate if Mom’s feet have been missed in the examination.  Most physicians include this in a comprehensive check.  But believe me, I have seen it be missed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and make sure that foot health is a consideration.  While my middle aged broken hand healed up nicely after my fall, a fall for a senior can be much more devastating because as we age we become more frail.  Taking proper precautions can help your loved one from being one of the 2.8 million older Americans that is treated in the ER annually for falls.  So be smart and evaluate these issues and it will help everyone keep one foot safely in front of the other.