As we go into September, National Falls Prevention Month, we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic across the US and the world. We have been sheltering in place by mandate or choice. Yet, the risks of falling do not decrease with fewer outings! And the challenges of caregiving have grown as personal visits have not been possible for many families. So there are different ways to approach the risks of falling and possible solutions but, most importantly, we need to have the conversations about falls. Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 21-25, 2020, is designed to spread this important public health message.
Falls are a leading cause of lost independence and mobility; often leaving seniors unable to fully recover from the trauma. Their overall health declines, and care needs increase significantly. People aged 65 and older have a 25% greater chance of falling. And if someone has fallen once, their chances of falling again doubles. It seems like common sense — everybody falls, no matter what age. However, for many older adults, an unexpected fall can result in a serious and costly injury. The good news is that most falls can be prevented. If you are the caregiver, you have the power to reduce your loved one’s risk of falling, and your own fall risk as well.
The National Council on Aging in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving has prepared a Conversation Guide to help caregivers and family members discuss the importance of fall risk reduction. Taking the action and beginning the conversation is the first step. It is not easy to tell a family member or friend that you are concerned about their safety or chances of falling. So, the use of supportive language is a great place to start, perhaps with an offer to follow-up on a wellness appointment so the discussion of fall risks can be part of an overall conversation. As with all conversations, positive tone and body language is vital.
Remember, this conversation may have to happen more than once to gather the full view of the risks and encourage participation. In addition to wellness checks for medication management concerns, the annual eye exam can be crucial. Subtle changes in vision can reduce depth perception, making even stepping out of the house or off a curb more dangerous. If your family member wears transition lenses which change with the ambient light, one strategy may be to simply stop and wait for the time to allow the lenses and, therefore, the vision to adjust before walking further. Extra lighting along outdoor pathways and interior hallways can reduce the chance of not seeing the tripping hazard that may be present.
Doing an evaluation of the home for safety hazards can be done, even with social distancing! As the caregiver, if you look for the tripping hazards or the ways to make every day activities easier; such as a handheld shower or grab bars, it’s a start and part of the safety conversation. The safety of your loved one reduces your stress and worry as the caregiver. You can reach out for a professional to assist you in a comprehensive home safety assessment as well, if you are not near your loved one.
Age Safe® America develops training programs and certifications to empower senior services providers to better help decrease falls and fall-related injuries.
Download the Falls Prevention Conversation Guide for Caregivers:
National Council on Aging (NCOA) Falls Prevention Awareness Week 2020 RESOURCES
As a Go4Life National Partner, Age Safe® America continues to advocate for exercise and physical activity everyday as key preemptive means to prevent to accidental falls.