You’ve Fallen … Now What?
“I take my time and move a lot more carefully now.”
Alice, a 66 year-old who suffered from a broken hip caused by a fall last year, says this is one of the ways her daily life has changed since the fall happened in her home. Unfortunately, she’s not alone.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year as a result of injuries sustained from a fall,¹ and millions of patients over 65 visit the emergency room yearly as a result of falling.¹ A fall can affect someone’s ability to live independently, already a great worry for many seniors.
The fear of losing their independence, being a burden to family members, or concern about the high cost of assisted living facilities can negatively affect a senior’s mindset. And that fear sometimes translates into loss of confidence and self-imposed restriction of activities to reduce the possibility of falls and injury. Statistics show that two-thirds of those who fall will likely do so again within a 6-month period.²
When an elderly person falls, their hospital stay is almost twice as long as that of an elderly patient admitted for another reason.³ Alice was fortunate to be able to return to her home and independent lifestyle after her fall, because half of seniors admitted to a nursing home or rehabilitation facility after an injury are not able to return to independent living.¹¹ Returning home can be a complex process while someone tries to establish normalcy, yet struggles with feeling weaker and more vulnerable to another fall. Older people can do many things to help overcome their fear and reduce their risk of falling.
Assessing the fall risk at home is critical to preventing injuries.
A few things to consider and evaluate in the home include:
- Ensure there are no loose cords lying across walking pathways
- Ensure floor mats and throw rugs are secure and are not tripping hazards
- Rearrange furniture so that it is easy to walk around in your home
- Eliminate floor clutter and ensure spills are cleaned up immediately
- Ensure frequently traveled pathways such as bedroom-to-bathroom are well lit
Using a home assessment checklist like the one below created by GF Health Products, Inc. (“Graham-Field”), from their Fall Prevention Brochure, can help seniors find and eliminate many fall hazards in the home.
A person’s physical condition caused by physical fitness, disorders or conditions present, medications used and just aging itself can increase the risk of falling and also affect how a person responds to a fall hazard.
- Check your vision at least once a year to ensure it is normal and, if not, that you are using the proper eyeglasses
- Review medications to ensure there are no interactions or side effects that can cause dizziness or other adverse reactions
- Exercise regularly to improve balance and leg strength
When Alice first returned home after her hip surgery, she knew she was facing a slow recovery process for the next several months. The discharge planner at the hospital recommended a Post Surgery Hip Kit, shown above, before she went home. Alice found the dressing stick and sock aid to be the most help in avoiding bending or twisting to get dressed. Even the handheld reacher helped eliminate stretching, allowing Alice to access items in the kitchen without putting her in an unstable situation that could cause her to fall again.
Alice’s physical therapist recommended that she use a mobility assistance device because she felt unstable when walking. Alice knew that she wanted to return to her normal activities such as daily walks through the park with her neighbor friends. She didn’t want anything too heavy or bulky, so she opted for a folding cane with a tripod tip, shown above, that would give her some support and balance. Alice found this to be helpful during the day; she also attached a mobility light to it so that she could keep it bedside to use at night.
Assessing and improving their home and physical capabilities can help older adults who have fallen or run the risk of falling feel safer. Using assistive devices and making lifestyle changes can help someone regain their strength and confidence and return to their daily routine and livelihood.
Alice says, “Since my fall, I’ve really had to slow down what I’m doing and really think about it. Slowing down has been good for both my health physically but also mentally … I’m taking time to enjoy little moments in life instead of always being so rushed, and feel able to try new things.”
Alice is enrolled in a Fitness After Fifty class at a local gym to increase her strength and agility. Between her regular home and self-assessments, Alice is doing all she can to ensure she does not fall again.
The information offered here is not medical advice and is not intended to replace guidance offered by your medical professionals.
¹ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web–based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Accessed August 5, 2016.
² Quality Is No Accident, The Massachusetts DDS Quality & Risk Management Brief April 2010: https://www.umassmed.edu/uploadedFiles/cdder/Quality_Assurance_Reports/QINA%20Falls%20Prevention%20tagged_secured.pdf
³ Seniors and Falls: Statistics and Prevention: http://www.comfortkeepers.com/home/info-center/senior-independent-living/seniors-and-falls-statistics-and-prevention
¹¹ The incidence of fall injury events among the elderly in a defined population: Sattin RW, Lambert Huber DA, DeVito CA, Rodriguez JG, Ros A, Bacchelli S, Stevens JA, Waxweiler RJ; Am J Epidemiol. 1990 Jun; 131(6):1028-37.
Cynthia Counts is Vice President of Product Management & Homecare SBU at Graham-Field.
About GF Health Products, Inc.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 300 US-based employees, GF Health Products, Inc. is a major manufacturer of healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare and primary care markets. The Graham-Field family of brands includes Basic American Medical Products, Everest & Jennings, Grafco, Hausted, John Bunn, Labtron, Lumex and Lumiscope. Visit www.grahamfield.com or call 770-368-4700. Basic American Medical Products and Graham-Field are trademarks of GF Health Products, Inc. © 2017, GF Health Products, Inc., all rights reserved.