One of my favourite parts of caring in the community is the initial assessment that I do. I love being welcomed into the home and learning more about the current situation, what prompted the contact with me and about their lives in general. I have an initial assessment that I carry out, it is a list of standard questions that allow me to put together the best care plan possible. What most people are probably not aware of, is that whilst we are chatting and getting to know each other, I am also assessing our surrounding, particularly to assess what the likelihood of falls is within the environment. Making the home safe for the older person is one of my top priorities and I have been known to educated people surrounding the importance of it, even when I am not at work!
Making the Home Safe for the Older Person
Current statistics suggest that approximately 30% of people over 65 sustain a fall each year, with that number rising to 50% in those over 80 years of age. Click To Tweet Prevention is always better than a cure and never has that been more accurate than when it comes to fall prevention. Falling and the subsequent hospital admission that comes as a result of excessive bruising, broken bones and the need for 24-hour monitoring can result in a rapid, and in some cases, permanent, deterioration in medical conditions. Approximately 25% of those who sustain falls will end up with reduced mobility and independence meaning that preventing falls is just as important in those without current medical issues as it is for those with current issues.
Risk Factors for Falling
Over half of all falls in those over 65 years of age are recurrent falls so it is important that we identify risk factors in our loved ones. Whilst not all of these factors have to be present, some of them do, so it is important to take note.
- History of Falls: Increases the likelihood that another fall will occur.
- Age: As mentioned above, approximately 30% of people over 65 will sustain a fall (with 25% of them having more than one) and in the over 80s that number rises to 50%. Even though children and young adults fall more frequently, those over 65 are more likely to sustain a serious injury due to weakening bones, reduced mobility and preexisting illnesses.
- Medications: The use of medications that cause sedation, such as sleeping tablets and benzodiazepines which are used in the treatment of anxiety, increase your chances of falling. Not only that, but you have a higher risk of falling at night time (when the medication is most commonly given) along with a 44% chance of hip fractures. Other medications that can increase the risk for falling are antiarrhythmics (used in treating an irregular heartbeat), digoxin (used for heart conditions) and diuretics (commonly known as water pills for water retention in the body). Some fall risk assessments suggest that if you are taking more than 4 medications – regardless of what you are taking them for – you are at an increased risk.
- Medical Conditions: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, vascular disease, depression and arthritis each increase your risk of falling by 32%. As a chronic condition deteriorates, your risk of falling increases. Diseases such as arthritis and diabetes reduce feeling in the outer extremities making it easier to fall. Being incontinent can also increase your risk of falling.
- Impaired Mobility and Gait: As we age, we lose muscle strength and power. This means that an innocent slip can turn into a fall as we do not have the ability to correct ourselves. Walking aids, imbalance and an uneven gait increase the risk of falling.
- Cognitive Disorders: Those who have issues with memory are at least twice as likely to fall, however the positive of this is that there is no increased risk of the severity of the injury.
- Foot Problems such as ulcers, deformed nails and general pain when walking also increase the risk of falling.
What Can I Do to Prevent Falls in the Home?
As you can see from the risk factors that are mentioned above, those over 65 or with any long-term illness are predisposed to falling and this means that we need to all that we can to ensure that our home is as safe as possible. Thankfully, making your home safe can be done quickly and as cost-effectively as possible by just adding simple safety measures throughout the house.
Start by going room to room and walking the path your loved one takes daily. What hazards are on the floor? Are there rugs with upturned corners? Are there piles of books on the floor? Anything that may be in the way needs to be removed. Next, look at hallways and the stairs, are they well lit? Is the switch easy to access? Finally, if your loved one isn’t under the care of a physiotherapist, find one in your local area who can come to the home and do an assessment. They will look at any equipment that is used (such as walking frames and sticks) to ensure that they are being used correctly and efficiently.
The thought of falling can be a scary one and one way of offering extra comfort to yourself, your family and your loved one is by having a medical alert system put in place. A medical alert system is usually a pendant that is worn around the neck and when you push the button on the pendant it alerts a monitoring company on the other end. This is particularly handy for people who live on their own and may not have many visitors. It will allow a rapid response from the appropriate authorities if a fall should take place.
As always, the information in this article is informational only and is not intended to replace medical advice. If you should be concerned about your or your loved one’s health, please contact your doctor to discuss matters further. You can read my disclosure policy here.
The statistics in this article were taking from: Analysing the problem of falls among older people, Yiannos Dionyssiotis (2012)