Falls are a great concern when taking care of elderly clients, for two main reasons.
The first reason is that they are an extremely common occurrence.
Over a third of people aged 65 or older experience at least one fall a year, and often more than one.
The second reason is how dangerous falls can be, especially for the elderly. Falls are actually one of the leading causes of disability in older people.
As a caregiver, you can take a series of steps to prevent falls from happening to your clients, mostly through careful risk-assessment and individual preventive plans for each client.
It is important to note that clients are not obligated to respect the safety measures you suggest. It is your responsibility as a caregiver to assess the risks and voice your concerns to the client, as well as come up with preventative measures.
However, the client always has the right to refuse those measures, and the caregiver has no way of imposing them, unless the client poses a danger to themselves or others.
What is the best way to ensure the safety of clients, even if they refuse assistance or the use of accessories such as canes or walkers?
Apart from doing everything you can to minimize the risks of falls, like making sure that the environment is as safe as possible, the best solution is to educate your clients. This will help empower them to be vigilant and protect themselves from falling too.
Here are some of the topics you can discuss with your clients to help them stay safe and avoid falls.
Medication and Their Side Effects
A lot of clients take some sort of medication regularly. One of the best ways to educate your clients is to inform them of the possible side effects of those medications. A variety of medications can cause side effects that can contribute to a person’s fall risk.
Low blood pressure and dizziness are the most common side effects that can increase the risk of falls. Clients at risk of these effects should be careful not to stand up too quickly.
Make sure they sit up and wait a few moments before slowly getting to their feet, preferably while holding onto something sturdy for support. This will help their blood pressure to stay stable and minimize risk.
Clients who take sedatives to help with sleep might feel drowsy, groggy, or dizzy when they wake up. Ask them to use a call light or bell for assistance getting out of bed, especially at night if they need to use the restroom or get up for any reason.
The Environment and Environmental Hazards
Your residents should be familiar with their environment and aware of potential dangers. If there are any particularly problematic areas or environmental hazards that you think might lead to a fall, make sure they know about it.
This could be anything from a step that’s easy to overlook, steep stairs, a rug that a person could trip on, or a poorly lit hallway.
Of course, if at all possible, the best solution is to first try to eliminate as many of these risk factors as you can. Taping the rugs to the floor, ensuring optimal lighting, and adding anti-slip edging to stairs are just some of the safety measures you might want to consider.
Safe Ways to Fall
Even with all the necessary precautions, falls are sometimes unavoidable. In these cases, it is very important to know how to fall. When a person first feels like they are going to fall, they usually reach out instinctively and fall with their hands first.
This can lead to a number of injuries to the hands, arms, and wrists. Knowing how to fall properly can mean the difference between no consequences and serious injury. That is why it’s crucial to educate your clients on the best way to fall, so they can avoid fractures and other painful and potentially dangerous consequences.
According to the AARP, here are some of the ways to reduce the impact of your fall are:
Try to keep your elbows and knees bent. That will reduce the chances of injury to your joints and soften the hit.
Protect your head and face. If falling ahead, turn your head to the side. If falling backward, lower your chin, so your head doesn’t hit the ground too hard.
If you’re able, don’t prevent the fall once it’s inevitable. Try to “roll with the fall” instead of trying to pull back. That will reduce the risk of injuries.
Physical Conditions That Might Contribute to Fall Risk Levels
Certain health issues such as diabetes can lead to neuropathy. Neuropathy is nerve damage or dysfunction that can lead to tingling, loss of sensation or pain in the affected area. When this happens, a person might be off balance without even knowing it.
If their feet are affected, it might lead to loss of sensitivity. In both cases, this might lead to balance issues or an increased risk of tripping.
If a client is likely to experience neuropathy due to a health condition, make sure to mention that possibility and explain the risks, so they know they need to be careful.
Physical Exercises for Better Control
People who are in better control of their bodies are less likely to experience falls. Strength training and balance exercises such as yoga and tai chi are excellent ways to reduce the number of falls.
You can help by consulting with the doctor to get physical or occupational therapy orders for your clients. Exercise is a healthy and pleasant activity that will not only improve their natural stability but also contribute to their overall well-being.
Fall prevention has the best results when you and your clients work together. By removing any external hazards you can provide them with a safe environment. Clients can also take some responsibility to reduce their risk.
Educating them about ways to protect themselves will not only decrease their chances of accidents but also allow them to stay safe with dignity and a sense of agency and control.
These tips should help you and your clients to be aware of and prevent the risk of danger from falls and improve overall health and well-being during the aging process.
If you want to take things one step further, you can sign up for our Continuing Ed course CE301: Falls and Fall Prevention. Click on the image below to learn more.