6 Surprising Signs Your Loved One May Be at Risk for a Fall
By Claudia Fine, LCSW, MPH, CMC, CCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy
When it comes to evaluating whether a loved one could be at risk of falling, you may not be able to count on them to assess their own abilities. Many older adults overestimate their balance and mobility – and while one in three older adults will fall this year, less than half talk to their healthcare provider about it.
However, falls shouldn’t be swept under the rug – they are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits due to trauma, and death from an injury among people age 65 and older.
Many caregivers hope they can recognize impending signs of a fall by keeping an eye out for a decline in their loved one’s coordination or a change in gait, but some of the warning signs may not be easy to recognize.
The good news is that if you identify and reduce risk factors, falls can be preventable. Ask yourself the following questions to help decide if your loved one may be at risk for a fall:
1. How many medications is Mom taking?
Your loved one may be taking more than one medication to help manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, or diabetes. However, both prescription and non-prescription medications can have side effects that increase the risk of falling. A healthcare professional can review your loved one’s medications and identify any interactions that could cause side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness that could lead to a fall.
2. Is Dad wearing his glasses regularly? How long has it been since he went to the eye doctor?
An outdated vision prescription can lead to a fall. As your loved one gets older, it’s important to make sure they are having regular eye exams and wearing their prescribed lenses.
3. Has Mom been turning up the volume on the TV lately?
While hearing might not seem related to balance, even mild hearing loss can triple the risk of a fall! When people can’t hear well they may not have a good awareness of their surroundings, which can increase the likelihood of trips and falls.
4. Have Dad’s worn-out slippers become his favorite footwear?
House slippers and sandals may be easier for older adults to put on and take off, but if your loved one is frequently wearing slip-on shoes ensuring they wear appropriate footwear will greatly lower their chance of a fall.
5. Is Mom bathing less frequently?
It can be a sensitive subject, but if you’ve noticed that your loved one isn’t taking care of themselves like they used to, it may be because they’re struggling to accomplish their daily tasks due to mobility issues. Additionally, if you notice spills or clutter in your loved one’s home, making sure walkways are clean and clear can help prevent a fall. Rearranging closets and cabinets so the items used most often are easily accessible will go a long way towards preventing falls caused by reaching and climbing.
6. Are there any pets in the house?
Don’t worry – your loved one doesn’t have to get rid of Fido or Fluffy! But while pets provide unconditional love and constant companionship, they can get underfoot and cause falls. Make sure their bowls, beds, and toys are out of the walkways and also consider attaching a bell to Fluffy’s collar or enrolling Fido in obedience training so he doesn’t jump up on your loved one.
Here are three more tips to help you prevent a fall:
An Aging Life Care Professional™ can conduct a fall risk assessment and develop a plan to avert risks. Here are some of the ways an Aging Life Care™ Manager can help you and your family:
- Make homes safer by reducing tripping hazards such as throw rugs, cords and wires; installing grab bars and hand rails to toilets, tubs and showers; and improving the lighting.
- Create an exercise regimen to increase strength and improve balance.
- Ensure emergency alert devices are installed and in place.
About the author: Claudia Fine, LCSW, MPH, CMC is a pioneer in the field of Aging Life Care™ / geriatric care management and has served in industry and community leadership roles throughout her 30-year career in elder care. She is the Chief of Professional Services at SeniorBridge, a national health care company offering individually tailored care management and home care services, and a past president of the Aging Life Care Association™. Email Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow SeniorBridge on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.