Warning. The first sentence of this post may nauseate you. It nauseated me. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately half of all falls that lead to hospitalization among seniors occur at home. Further, falls are the leading cause of injuries among Canadians 65 years and over. Falls usually result in fractured hips. Fractured hips are the number one threat faced by our seniors after a fall. Fractured hips usually rob seniors of their independence and mobility. As a nurse, I have seen this deadly problem faced by seniors again and again. Shocker: One in five seniors who fractures a hip will die within a year of the break.
To be clear, the issue of seniors falling has been recognized in Canada. Heck, several researchers have helped bring attention and we hear about fall prevention programs everywhere. A simple example would be I always make sure the bed alarm is on before I leave my patient’s room if he/she is at risk for fall. I am positive all the nurses do the same. Additionally, these fall prevention programs have received adequate media attention as well. Alas, I wonder if all these prevention programs are being implemented. Literature has backed it up but I am not sure if it is backed up by actually implementing the programs. Thousands of seniors in Canada live independently and got no clue about these fall prevention programs. For those seniors living independently, help is here. Fall prevention starts with creating a safe living place. Here are 3 ways to prevent falls for seniors living at home.
Light it up
Inadequate lighting is a major hazard for everyone but it affects seniors more. Poorly lit pathways cause shadows and can hide hazards. Don’t be afraid to install brighter light bulbs if needed especially in stairways and narrow hallways. Sure, your hydro bill might increase but your fragile hips will appreciate you more. Plus, make sure you always turn the lights on before you enter a room. If possible, have a light by your bed with a switch that is easy to reach.
This is big one. Seniors are not afraid to ask for help but when it comes to using the bathroom, things get a little interesting. Many seniors are mortified when they need help to use the washroom. This is totally understandable. I made a mistake of helping one of my new patients to use the washroom. No thanks, she said. Hence, I believe bathroom safety is mandatory to prevent falls. Installation of safety grab bars for the tub, shower and toilet is not an option. It is necessary. Likewise, make sure to have your toilet paper roll within easy reach. Using non-slip mats inside and outside of bathtubs and shower stalls can prevent falls as well.
Toronto’s winter forecast calls for tons of snow this winter. VOMIT. For seniors, it is important to be more vigilant during a snowstorm or icy road conditions. Ask for help. Ask your kids or grand-kids to help you clear the snow. Always carry a cell phone with you when you are outside so you can call for help when needed. If you are in unfamiliar places, be extra vigilant as you don’t know the area well and the risk for a fall increases.
Here are some more excellent tips to prevent falls for seniors living in home. It’s in PDF.