Many people may not see falls as an important issue because they feel it is just a ‘sign’ of getting older and that it will happen anyway. But the fact is that most falls are caused by personal issues – something to do with a person’s lifestyle, physical or mental state – or by interaction between one or more of these personal issues and an environmental hazard. Today, research is increasingly showing that prevention interventions can reduce falls.
In WA, the “Stay on Your Feet” program has suggested a 9 step approach to help you or your ageing relative stay on their feet. The nine steps reflect the main factors that contribute to falls which are as follows:
We urge all our clients to review the “Nine Steps to Stay On Your Feet®” focussing firstly on those parts that relate to them, to their lifestyle, independence and environment.
Resources and guides are readily available from the Stay On Your Feet® council of WA or you can contact us at Platinum Healthcare to see how this can be built into our home and community care programs.
1. Department of Health, Western Australia. Falls Prevention Model of Care. Perth: Health Strategy and Networks, Department of Health, Western Australian; 2014
Falls among older adults
“My grandpa fell at the ATM. He never recovered and died. Same with my other grandma, she fell in a parking lot, never recovered. Both died within a few months of their fall. A simple fall can spell the end even for a pretty fit person. Also REMEMBER if they fall once, their chances of falling again soon after go UP!” Robin M
“My father had Alzheimers but was still capable of living at home with my mom’s help. He fell and hit his head on a door frame. That was it. He rapidly declined, never walking again. He spent the last year of his life staring at a ceiling.” Trish C
These are just a couple of the myriad of true experiences of people with ageing family members.
- One in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year.
- Older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.
- Of those who fall, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, and increase their risk of early death.
- If an older person has had a fall this typically increases their risk of having another.
- A fall can lead to loss of confidence and reduction in activity which often leads to more falls.
* Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Given we have a rapidly expanding ageing population there is a growing incidence in the occurrence of falls among older adults. Not only is this resulting in significant direct physical, social and emotional trauma, both amongst the person and the broader family, but it comes at a significant economic cost to our nation as well.
I recently became aware of an interesting and eye opening article in the New York Times titled “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation”. The writer, Katie Hafner from the New York Times, writes:
“As the population ages and people live longer in bad shape, the number of older Americans who fall and suffer serious, even fatal, injuries is soaring. So the retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes where millions of Americans live are trying to balance safety and their residents’ desire to live as they choose.” Read more …
Falls can happen to anyone. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimise your injuries if you do fall. Knowing your risk factors and taking a few precautions is a good start.
In a future post we will look at what steps you can and should take to reduce the likelihood of a fall and its resulting injuries.
Living with a Family Member with Dementia
Dementia is debilitating and can bring with it frustration, anger and grief. We provide home care and aged care in Perth, and communicate regularly with patients who have dementia, and their families who are trying to deal with it the best they can. It is not easy to watch your loved one change, but there are ways in which you can make your life and the life of your loved one more enjoyable and manageable.
- Talk about dementia-Don’t be scared to talk about dementia both with your family and with the person who has it. Plan for the future and speak honestly with one another. This will save you a lot of pain and uncertainty later on.
- Communicating-Your loved one will sometimes feel confused and afraid. Communicate effectively with them to help ease that fear. When you’re asking questions, don’t ask too many at once as this will overwhelm them, and keep any questions simple and short. Engage in conversations regularly with your loved one to make sure they don’t feel lonely. Keep your tone soothing and relaxed and engage in physical contact such as hugs if your loved one permits this.
- Understanding and minimising the meltdowns-There will often be triggers which you will eventually start to notice, which lead to your loved one feeling very frustrated and scared. When you begin to see these signs, check the room around your loved one to make sure it is warm enough, they are seated comfortably, they have taken their medication, they’re not hungry or thirsty and so on. If everything seems fine, distract your loved one. Take them for a walk or use a favourite item or conversation topic. As you begin to understand dementia, you will get better at minimising these meltdowns.
- Medicine-Maintain medicine, medical appointments and care and ensure you see a doctor regularly with your loved one. Sometimes the symptoms of dementia can be exacerbated by other illnesses and it is important that these are dealt with immediately.
- Be informed and keep reading-Understand dementia. Read about it and regularly and communicate with your loved one’s doctor to understand the progression of their symptoms. Understanding the problem will help you deal with the effects.
- Look after yourself-Really assess your own feelings and mental state. Many people who are carers for loved ones with dementia will feel depressed and helpless. Make sure you communicate with your own doctor about your situation if you are feeling unwell or overwhelmed.
- Don’t take it personally-Is it the person or the symptoms that are speaking?
How to Make your Home Wheelchair Friendly.
As a health care provider in Perth, we understand the importance of designing the home with the needs of the elderly and disabled in mind. It is essential to take home accessibility issues into consideration when a loved one is wheelchair bound. It is important for anyone in a wheelchair to feel a sense of independence and control over their own lives. A way to do this is to ensure that the home is wheelchair friendly.
Home Entrance: This is the first modification which should be made. Build a wheelchair ramp at the house entrances, making sure that the pathway is wide enough. You can also consider adding handrails and a non-slip surface for extra stability and safety.
Hallways: Hallways, like doorways, should be wide enough for a wheelchair to comfortably pass through. Make sure the floors surface is non-slip. Stairs: Stairs are extremely difficult for anyone in a wheelchair to use. In order to make stairs wheelchair safe, you should install a stairway lift at every stairway in your home.
Floors: If possible, replace all carpets with hardwood or tiles. Rugs can be especially difficult to navigate because they are not secured to the floor. Installing ramps will make thresholds safer. Importantly, make sure that you secure any electrical cables which may be exposed.
Doorways & Doorknobs: Widen doorways in your home and ensure that doorknobs are placed low enough for someone is a wheelchair to access. Alternatively, doors can be made automatic, allowing them to be opened and closed at the press of a button.
Kitchen: Lower cupboard handles, bench tops and light switches, and install appliances which are easy to access. Install a sink which allows space for a wheelchair to roll under it.
Bathroom: To make your bathroom wheelchair accessible, create a shower with a lower threshold or install a walk-in bathtub. Lower light switches and counter tops.