Falls are the leading cause of injury among adults aged 65 years and older in the United States, and can result in severe injuries such as hip fractures and head traumas that may lead to costly hospital stays and physical rehab. Many older adults, even if they have not fallen, become afraid of falling and limit their activity, which drastically decreases their quality of life.
There are 5 proven approaches that can reduce both worry and the likelihood of fall injuries, according to Kenny Higdon, Owner of 5 Star Home Care, a Tennessee-based company that helps seniors with mobility issues, as well as those of all ages who are living with a disability or recovering from an injury or illness. 5 Star's professional caregivers perform such day-to-day activities as bathing, dressing, doing laundry, light housekeeping, meal preparation, and transportation.
The 5 Approaches to Fall Prevention include
1) Home Safety Assessment
"Are there obvious potential problem areas in the house such as loose rugs that a senior can slip or trip on?" Higdon asked. "Slippery floors, poor lighting or clutter in high-traffic areas are all hazards to address. Wearing loose shoes or clothing and using furniture to reach high places are also risky behaviors that could lead to a fall."
The presence of a qualified caregiver in the home like the ones screened and hired by 5 Star Home Care can aid in identifying such hazards that increase the risk of falling. Those experiencing frailty may need advice on choosing safety devices and mobility aids. Some Medicare HMOs might offer home safety evaluations as a benefit or the local agency on aging may offer such a service.
2) Medical and Vision Screening
"Everyone needs a periodic checkup performed by a medical professional," Higdon said. "Checking blood pressure is part of that. It's quite common for older adults to experience a drop in blood pressure when standing or changing position, especially if a senior is on medications to lower blood pressure. Light-headedness can lead to falls. Tell your doctor about any concerns and ask him or her to check blood pressure while both sitting and standing. A home blood pressure monitor can also be useful." Higdon said doctors should also examine the senior's gait and balance for steadiness, recommending a cane or walker if needed. Some mobility issues can require physical therapy ordered by a physician. "Get vision checked by an eye doctor at least every 1 to 2 years. Update glasses or contact lenses when vision changes," Higdon said.
Physical activity under the direction of a doctor can reduce the risk of falls. Stretching improves flexibility while walking daily improves balance, Higdon said. "Choose activities that make your heart beat faster – like walking fast, dancing, swimming, or raking leaves," he added. This proactive approach puts seniors in a better position to avoid physical frailty by improving leg strength. As additional benefits, staying active lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, as well as reducing the symptoms of depression.
Calcium and vitamin D specifically help build and maintain strong bones. Foods containing these nutrients include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Milk, breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice are also sources. "If a doctor finds low levels of vitamin D, a supplement may be in order," Higdon said. "The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Geriatrics Society both endorse this easy and cheap approach to reduce the risk of falls."
5) Medications Review
Certain types of medications are known to increase falls in seniors, including over-the-counter sleep drugs such as Nyquil or the PM version of common painkillers. Sedatives with brand names like Ambien, Ativan and Xanax can cause drowsiness, as can medications used to treat dementia, allergies, over-active bladder, vertigo, nausea, nerve pain, and depression. Be sure to talk to the doctor before cutting back on any medications or stopping them completely because they may be essential to controlling a symptom or condition, even though they increase the risk of falls. The American Geriatrics Society keeps a list of "Medications that Older Adults Should Avoid or Use with Caution."
"By taking this 5-step approach, families and caregivers can greatly reduce the likelihood of a fall," Higdon said.
He started 5 Star Home Care in 2007 after his own mother experienced difficulty finding someone the family could trust to care for his grandmother and took on the responsibility herself at great sacrifice. 5 Star carefully screens caregivers before hiring them and connects them with clients across Tennessee. For families who are concerned about the health and safety of their loved one, reach out to 5 Star Home Care at (423) 893-8181.
About 5 Star Home Care
Realizing how precious our seniors are, 5 Star employs the most qualified caregivers who are hired only after undergoing careful background checks and drug screens. The company's procedures are tailored to work towards constant monitoring, care management and never placing the senior at risk of being left without care.
5 Star Home Care has headquarters located in Chattanooga and serves throughout Tennessee.
Home care services exist to provide the basic services that facilities do – light housekeeping, meal preparation and social activities – without removing the senior from the familiarity of home. It is a cost efficient alternative to an assisted living facility that preserves the aging loved one's sense of freedom and comfort.
If you are struggling with how to best care for an aging or disabled relative, call or visit www.5starHomeCare.com at 423-893-8181 today.
"Slippery floors, poor lighting or clutter in high-traffic areas are all hazards to address. Wearing loose shoes or clothing and using furniture to reach high places are also risky behaviors that could lead to a fall." - Kenny Higdon
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Call or visit 5starHomeCare.com at 423-893-8181