When you love someone who is at risk of falling, you wish you could monitor their every move so they never have to experience a fall. But, ensuring that individuals are informed and empowered about their own conditions and care plan is actually an important step toward fall prevention.
First, who is at risk of falling? While many factors affect one’s balance, the elderly are more at risk, simply due to decreased mobility and strength associated with age.
Prior falls/gait issues
Individuals who have previously fallen or are prone to instability are the most at risk for potential future falls. You may be able to tell if an individual struggles with balance by observing the steadiness of their gait.
Deficiency in one’s line of sight is a common explanation for why one may experience frequent instability. Since diseases that attack the eyes and age-related sight deterioration are common in the elderly—for those with glasses and even for those without—staying on top of regular eye checkups is a must.
Certain medications may cause vertigo or dizziness as a side-effect, which is why individuals who have chronic illnesses that require medication are more likely to have permanent issues with balance.
One side effect of diabetes includes the swelling of the feet, which often causes walking to be painful and difficult for seniors. Therefore, foot edema as well as the risks that come with low blood sugar can also influence a diabetic individual’s potential to fall.
Getting someone to admit to needing help can often be difficult, which is why when speaking with a loved one about fall prevention, you don’t want to take an aggressive or accusatory approach. Below are some tactics and examples of talking points that may garner you success with having a conversation with your loved one.
Since concern can sometimes be mistaken for condescension, be genuine and mild when you first set out to have a conversation about fall prevention.
“It looked as if you were dizzy when you suddenly stood up a moment ago. Has that been happening often?”
People find it easier to open up to someone whom they feel they can relate to, so find a shared aspect of your loved one’s experience that you can have a conversation about.
“I’m having such trouble seeing in the distance nowadays, that I’m thinking of taking a vision test for glasses.”
Give an example
This may be the first time that your loved one is dealing with being risk-prone toward falling. They may feel alone in their experience, so hearing about others’ experiences with falls and fall prevention could put things into perspective for them.
“A friend of mine who has diabetes passed out the other day when their blood sugar got too low!”
In addition to having a conversation with your loved one about slip prevention, you can also gift them anti-slip accessories to keep them safe as well as to give you peace of mind.
Canes and walkers
Canes (light support) and walkers (advanced support) are great mobility aids for individuals who are always on the go but have slight issues with balance.
Medical alert devices
In the event of a fall, a medical alert device that can be worn around the neck or wrist could is an essential accessory as a precautionary measure. Although Life Alert is the most well-known medical alert brand, there are far more variations and offerings of medical alert devices nowadays that even come in the form of stylish jewelry.
Slip-resistant and compressive footwear
Footwear with rubber or otherwise slip-resistant soles are an effective way to minimize the chance of slipping on smooth surfaces. Slip-resistant shoes also often come with the added benefit of being compressive, which provides pain relief and comfort to those who suffer from swollen feet.
Falls are common and, unfortunately, most everyone has been affected in some way. The good news is that they often can be prevented. Talking about falls is the first step in helping you and your loved one understand falls risk factors and how to reduce that risk.