One in every four older Americans fall each year. Because of falls, one older adult dies every 19 minutes, so that about 27,000 deaths occur due to this accident each year, making falls the leading cause of death in this age group. It costs a total of $31 billion to cover the expenses for these injuries, and because the aging population is expected to grow in the coming years, these numbers are likely to double, too.
Due to fear of falling, many older adults choose to avoid social interactions and other important activities. As a result, they feel depressed, helpless, and isolated. Caregivers who are constantly with their patients must be aware of the danger of falls and must do everything to prevent injury because this is one of the best ways to preserve the patient's independence and maintain their health.
What can caregivers do to prevent falls in older patients? Here are some great tips to keep in mind:
1. OBSERVE THE PATIENT’S CONDITION FOR ANY SIGNS OF WEAKNESS OF LOSS OF BALANCE. A patient who is weak or has difficulty walking will hold on to walls or furniture for support. They will also stand or walk with a wobble. Knowing their level of weakness can help the caregiver decide the extent of independence the patient can have or the amount of supervision needed.
2. MAKE SURE THE PATIENT RECEIVES A REGULAR EYE CHECK UP AND THAT EYEWEAR IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO THEM WHEN NEEDED.
Older people usually have poor vision due to aging and other causes such as diabetes and cataracts. When the patient cannot see clearly, they fall because they lose their balance and do not see the hazards in their surroundings that could cause them to trip.
3. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT A CALL BELL OR CALL LIGHT IS NEAR. An elderly patient who has difficulty moving must always have a call bell or a call light to signal that they need help when moving or transferring.
4. CHECK THEIR REQUIREMENTS FOR A PORTABLE TOILET OR URINAL. Incontinence is one of the reasons why older people fall. A patient who is incontinent will hurry to reach the toilet in time, and in doing so, may fall.
5. TEACH PATIENTS TRANSFER TECHNIQUES. Patients who are still independent in moving around must be taught how to move about safely, especially when getting off the bed or using the wheelchair. As a general rule, let the patient get up from the bed slowly and have them dangle their feet by the side before getting off the bed. The wheels of the wheelchair should also be locked before transferring to it.
6. REMOVE CLUTTER AND OTHER HAZARDS. The caregiver must check the home or surroundings for things that can cause falls in the elderly such as items that block paths or items that are scattered on the floor. Examples of these hazards are throw rugs and things that can get in the way such as footstools, and loose electrical cords.
7. ENSURE ADEQUATE LIGHTING. Poor vision and inadequate lighting is a perfect recipe for falls in the older person. So keep outdoor pathways and indoor hallways brightly lit.
8. INSTALL GRAB BARS IN THE SHOWER. Grab bars provide support that a patient can hold on to while standing, sitting, or keeping themselves balanced. Caregivers must check if grab bars are installed in the shower and the toilet.
9. CHOOSE A RESIDENCE WITHOUT STAIRS IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. Climbing up and down stairs is a struggle for older people. The best home for patients would be a one-story house without stairs.
10. REVIEW THE PATIENT’S MEDICATIONS. Older patients usually take several medications. The caregiver must know if any medications cause dizziness, blurry vision, or have any side effects that can affect the patient's movement and balance.
11. IF THE PATIENT NEEDS TO REMAIN IN BED, ADJUST THE BED FOR SAFETY. To do this, lower the bed to its lowest position, raise the side rails, and lock the wheels of the bed.
Falls can take away an older person's life. Caregivers must take extra care in preventing falls at all costs. Making sure that an elderly person or patient is kept safe as they move, walk, or transfer is one of the best ways of showing that you care.
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