Helping Aging Parents Avoid Falling
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Statistics say that 70 percent of the accidental deaths in patients older than 75 are caused from falls. About 90 percent of all the hip fractures happen in patients older than 70.
As our parents age, increased use of medications, lack of mobility (due to stiff joints) cognitive impairment from aging, neuropathy (sensory deficits), even confusion and loss in judgment lead to thousands of falls per year.
Aging takes its toll on families. Parents often have difficulty coming to grips with their loss of mobility and independence. As a result, families fear talking with their loved ones about getting older. The aging process is difficult at best, but with falls being a leading cause of death in the elderly, finding the opportunity to discuss lifestyle modifications early will prevent accidents.
Take time to make plans. Start by making simple changes – such as moving furniture to clear a wide pathway through the home. Remove throw rugs to prevent accidents or place anti-slip netting beneath them.
Make slow modifications to the home, beginning in the bathroom. Bathrooms are prime areas for serious falls. Install handrails and a portable phone. Pre-programming phones with a speed-dial 911 will prevent elders from fumbling to dial in an emergency. Install a phone low and against a wall (next to the commode or in a lower vanity cabinet) making it easily accessible from floor level. When elders fall, they often cannot reach a phone placed on a table or cabinet.
1. Install a PERS (Personal Emergency Response System). This is a necklace or wristband worn 24/7. In the event of an emergency, they can press the button that signals an emergency call center. Help can then be obtained quickly. PERS units are available through local representatives, hospitals, and medical supply companies.
2. Install ramps next to stairs. Outside steps freeze quickly in the winter. Adding a ramp covered in gritty non-slip covering will ward off dangerous tumbles.
3. Make the house accessible. If bedrooms are located on the second level of the home, make the move downstairs or contact a local contractor who specializes in adapting homes for the elderly. Installing wider stairs or including additional safety rails can help aging parents get to the second level securely.
4. Invest in a cell phone to be carried in a pocket. Cell phones offer a sense of security for those whose love of the outdoors is important. Should loved ones fall outside, a pre-programmed cell phone can dial help. Several national companies provide phones with extra large key pads, minus all the whistles and bells, making it easy to use. The rates range from $10 per month to a pay-as-you-use format.
Light the way. As parents age, weakening eyesight and poor depth perception can cause falls. Take the time to add additional lighting to hallways and stairwells. Install light sensitive night lights in bathrooms and bedrooms that click on at dusk.
Restrict pets prone to get underfoot and trip loved ones. Pets are wonderful additions to the lives of our aging parents, but before one is introduced carefully weigh the pros and cons. Neither puppies nor hyper adult dogs are easy for elders to care for and though they are loving creatures, the safety factor must be considered.
It has been said that a broken hip leads to a broken spirit. The reality of the loss of mobility strikes hard once an elderly person succumbs to a broken hip. Parents are forced into nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities to heal. Bones heal slower for our elders and time drags as they recuperate, leading to depression or worse, just giving up.
As families make modified changes early in the lives of aging parents the risk of serious injury or death drops significantly. Though change is difficult for loved ones, the love children show their parents will be a comfort. The love of Christ is gentle, healing, and restful.
Show that deep and abiding love by taking time to trip-proof your loved one’s home. Take precautions early and preserve the safety of our elders.
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