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It happens in a split second—a rustling, a yelp, a crash—and before you know it, your loved one is on the floor, unable to get up. At least that's what happened to my 83-year-old grandpa.
He has been living on his own for two years since my grandma passed away, and though he insists he gets along just fine, we have just experienced our third slip and fall.
After the first, we thought it was just a fluke. He got away with a bruised tailbone and seemed to be moving around just as well once he healed.
After the second, he tweaked his back and was put on bedrest. We started having a nurse come by to check on him each day and administer his prescriptions. Our family is large, so we also started taking shifts going to his house and making sure he was still upright.
It wasn't until the third one—the last one, the worst one—that we decided it was time to make a greater change.
If we are looking at this story in terms of numbers, these are the ones you should know:
- three slip and falls
- three ambulance calls
- two back surgeries
- four new prescription bottles
- one wheelchair
- one donut pillow
- one walker equipped with two yellow tennis balls
- ten family members huddled in a waiting room
- dozens of tears
- and about 30 iterations of "growing old ain't for sissies"
It may not seem like it, but we were lucky. Slip and falls are wildly dangerous for elderly people, and my grandpa made it through three with, it seems, nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
After six months of recovery and physical therapy for a surgery to repair a slipped disk and some nerve damage, he's up and walking again. Like nothing ever happened.
Unfortunately, that's not true for many others.
Slip & Fall Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year. Among the elderly, slip and falls result in over 2.8 million injuries and 27,000 deaths each year, making falls the leading cause of fatal injuries among older adults.
The last thing any of us want to see if our elderly loved one hurt, disabled, traumatized, or immobile due to a slip and fall accident that could have been prevented.
Fortunately there are ways to make a senior’s life easier by implementing a few quick living space and habitual changes. Follow these eight tips in both your home and care facilities or nursing homes to prevent a slip and fall accidents for your loved one.
1. Get shoes with grip.
We all make fun of Sketchers or Clarks at some point in our lives, but seriously, shoes like these with extra support and extra grip turned out to be a life saver for my grandpa. And I'm convinced solid footwear can make all the difference for your loved one. It can help with balance, stability, overall comfort, and muscle and joint support. By adding non-skid treads in the mix, your loved one will have a better chance at staying upright while walking, instead of taking an awful tumble.
2. Toss out the rugs and clear the clutter.
This is the very first thing we did in my grandpa's house. Slick rugs, uneven surfaces, and common clutter are the most common causes of trip and fall accidents. Clear walkways in your home from electrical cords, pet toys, shoes, and other small items that can cause trouble.
3. Enhance lighting.
It's no shock that as you age, your vision becomes worse. Seeing at night or in dim lit settings becomes next to impossible, as your depth perception blurs. Enhancing the lighting in your home, around uneven surfaces, and dark corners, with the newest and brightest LED lighting technology can make all the difference.
4. Check hearing and vision annually.
Did you know that both a decrease in vision and hearing can throw off your equilibrium? Both uneven hearing and blurred vision can effect your body's natural sense of balance making, getting around much more difficult. If your loved one starts to teeter more often, check to see if it's a problem with their eyes or ears. Corrective glasses or hearing aids might be all it takes to give them back their balance.
5. Install railings.
If it's not just the eyes or the ears, installing handrails and grab bars are easy fixes to increase stability in your home. If you have stairs or uneven surfaces, make sure a handrail is nearby. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and showers can make it easier for your loved one to complete those activities on their own without worrying over the slick surfaces.
6. Move it where you use it.
This one is a little more obvious. At first we gave my grandpa one of those grabber sticks to reach things, so he didn't have to get up on a stool or take both hands off his walker, but we soon realized that wasn't the best way of going about his lack of balance. Why not just move the things he uses into his reach? That TV remote that you usually keep on the mantle, try moving to the coffee table. The glasses on the top shelf, try moving to the counter. Keeping the items most used by your love ones in easy, accessible areas can make all the difference in their stability and livelihood.
7. Move it or lose it.
Moving commonly used items closer to your loved one doesn't make for an excuse for not getting them to exercise. Making sure they one get up, and walk around is one of the biggest ways to combat slip and fall accidents. Weak legs, muscles, and joints from sitting too sedentary can increase a person's likelihood of falling as they age. So while intense exercise may not be recommended, make sure your loved on is still getting a work out in here or there to keep their body strong.
8. Check medications.
This is potentially the most critical item on the list. We often believe that our doctors remember ever medication they have prescribed us, and know exactly how our bodies will react to them. Well, this isn't always true. Medications can have serious side effects that can make one dizzy, and when two or more medications are mixed, the side effects can be much worse. Checking the prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, or bringing the prescriptions to your loved one's next doctor appointment and asking about the drugs interactions is all it takes to make sure your loved one's slipping spells aren't medicinally related. It’s important to read the labels on any medications your loved one takes, and consult with your doctors if your loved one becomes more and more unstable or disoriented.
In the End
Making these simple adjustments can keep your loved one thriving in their home longer. If your loved one is living in a senior living facility, nursing home, or has in-home care, speak to someone in charge about the safety precautions already in place to prevent slip and fall accidents for your loved one.
If you suspect the nursing home facility isn’t providing adequate safety or care to your loved one, it may be considered nursing home abuse. An elderly abuse expert can help you understand your options for seeking resolution to these issues, especially if your loved one already suffered a slip and fall and is now seeking medical treatment.
We moved my grandpa into a great care community of his choosing after his recovery. It wasn't an easy choice, and though he won't admit it, I think it hurt his pride a little bit. But at the end of the day, we all sleep better knowing there is care around him 24/7, and he seems to enjoy living in a place where there is a handball court four doors down.