According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one in three older adults, ages 65 and up, fall each year. Those who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. What’s more, 20 to 30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injury, which can significantly impact older adults’ independence and ability to remain self-sufficient. And sadly, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), falls are the second-leading cause of unintentional death in the home.
Falls do not have to be rites of passage that come with aging, yet less than half of those who fall discuss the incident with their healthcare providers. For some effective tips on communicating with your patients about reducing their risks and preventing falls, keep reading.
Fall prevention tips to share with your patients
The possibility of falling and being seriously injured as a result increases with age. However, identifying the risks and taking precautions can help mitigate this risk. Here are some tips you can share with your patients to keep them safe:
- Exercise: Poor balance, weakened muscles, decreased coordination and slower reaction times are significant risk factors when it comes to falls. There are numerous studies that attribute exercise-based interventions to the reduced incidence of falls and fall-related injuries. Consider compiling a list of local gyms or fitness centers that offer exercise programs appropriate for older adults. Water aerobics, Tai Chi and even dance may be fitting. Distribute your list along with an exercise-man pen and a translucent water bottle to promote your message.
- Eliminate home hazards: Bunched up throw rugs, electrical cords, clutter, stairways and even cracked sidewalks are all common fall hazards. Proactive meatures can help reduce the risk of falls. The NSC recommends the following: remove small rugs or use non-skid mats to keep them from slipping. Secure electrical cords and move them out of traffic areas. Clean up clutter, such as shoes and toys, by entryways and staircases. And periodically check steps and walkways for damage and perform any needed repair immediately. Imprint these home fall prevention tips on a magnet or jar opener to serve as an important safety reminder.There are also numerous modifications that can be made to help “fall-proof” homes. Non-slip grip strips on floors and steps as well as rubber bath mats can help prevent slips that may occur due to slick surfaces. And installing dual-sided hand rails on staircases and walkways, and grab bars in the tub or shower and next to the toilet can help prevent falls. A 6-in-1 screwdriver or a tape measure imprinted with the message “Age well: fall-proof your home for safety” can be a great way to promote your fall-proofing message to aging patients and their family members alike.
- Educate family members: Often, relatives of aging parents or other family members could use some help communicating their concerns about the sometimes difficult topic of safety from falls. The Mayo Clinic offers several helpful tips to ensure aging loved ones are safe and healthy, including discussing the use of assistive devices, such as walkers or reaching devices, working with a home care service and seeking help from local agencies. These tips remind family members that sometimes aging loved ones won’t admit they need help. Sometimes all it takes is for family members to show a little concern to motivate a patient to discuss fall safety with physicians or to make both household and/or or lifestyle changes.
Remember, falls don’t have to be inevitable for aging patients. Share these simple tips to help older adult clients live safer, healthier, more independent lives.
Sogolow, E. D. & Stevens, J. A. “Preventing Falls: What Works.” Scientific American 298.2 (2008): 32. Centers for Disease Control. Web. Retrieved 17 Oct. 2014.