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Falls Can Jeopardize Independence; Preventing Them Helps Keep Seniors Home Longer

Keep fallen leaves, snow and ice from walkways to prevent falls.
Keep fallen leaves, snow and ice from walkways to prevent falls.

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June 30, 2011

Few calamities are potentially more deadly than senior falls. Brittle bones and weak joints can lead to disastrous consequences. Family caregivers should help their older loved ones take the necessary precautions—whether it is lending a hand or hiring a professional CAREGiverSM—to maintain a safe environment.

Q. My 84-year-old mother continues to live at home, but as her only child living miles away, I worry about her safety. What is one of the biggest risks to her at home and what can I do to prevent that?

The risk of falls grows increasingly relevant as seniors age at home. According to the National Safety Council, falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the community as well as in the home. And they’re the major reason for injury-related death and hospital admission for those seniors age 65 and older.

In fact, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that one in three older people falls each year. Falls could be the single-biggest threat to seniors alone at home, like your mother. What often results in senior falls is a hip fracture, which can lead to long-term hospitalization and even death, according to the Academy.

There’s much that you and your mother and do, however, to decrease that risk. Following are several suggestions that we have compiled, from the National Safety Council as well as other professionals who are concerned about senior safety:

  • Don’t leave clutter on floors and steps, and be sure to tuck away telephone and electrical cords.
  • Clean up spills and don’t wax floors.
  • Create color contrast in a room. Light-colored floors and darker walls work well.
  • Use non-skid throw rugs on linoleum and other hard surface flooring.
  • Install handrails in stairways, and have grab bars by toilets and near the tub or shower.
  • Make sure adequate lighting, such as night lights, is available in hallways and other well-traveled areas of the home.
  • Keep fallen leaves, snow and ice from walkways.
  • Periodically check the condition of outdoor walks and steps, and repair any damage immediately.
  • Fill any holes or depressions in your yard that might pose a tripping hazard.

Since you live a distance from your mother, she may need some help safety-proofing her home. A family friend or neighbor might be willing to assist. If not, consider hiring a non-medical caregiver to step in.

The local Home Instead Senior Care® office hires CAREGiversSM, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, to help seniors in their homes by providing companionship, meal preparation and light housekeeping. Ensuring the safety and independence of seniors is among their most important goals.

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