According to the CDC, one out of every four people over the age of 65 falls each year, but less than half of those who fall report it to their doctor. Every year, approximately 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for falls. The risk of or fear of falling can make it impossible to live alone or reduce your quality of life. This article will look at falls and how they can be avoided.
The Dangers of Falling
Despite the fact that many people never report a fall to their doctor, one out of every five falls results in a broken bone or head injury. The most common reasons for hospitalization following a fall are hip fracture and head injury. Another potential risk that causes concern as we age and among our loved ones is traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Certain groups of people, such as those on blood thinners, are more vulnerable if they fall. Many people become fearful after falling due to physical side effects and injuries. Even if they are not injured, it can cause people to lose confidence and prevent them from doing the things they enjoy.
What Factors Contribute to Aging-Related Falls?
One of the more common causes of falls, according to the CDC, is that as people become less active, they become weaker, making them more prone to falling. A person’s chances of falling are increased by a number of other factors. These are some examples:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Balance or walking problems
- Certain medications
- Vision problems
- Pain in the feet and legs
- Improper footwear
- Home hazards, such as steps, throw rugs, or clutter
- Blood pressure or blood glucose problems
- Other health problems that cause fainting or dizziness
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should give you a few ideas of what to look for around the house that could lead to a fall. Pets can also be a source of income. Falls can occur as a result of broken or uneven steps, loose gravel, or slippery surfaces around the home. The next question is how to avoid falling.
What Safety Measures Can Be Implemented to Prevent Falls?
Using this or a similar list, anyone can provide an assessment of fall risks. It takes looking around and suspiciously viewing anything that could potentially cause a fall hazard. Many of the items on the list, such as repairing broken steps, using tape to keep throw rugs from slipping, and keeping clutter off the floor, are easily eliminated.
Here are a few things you can do to help prevent falls in the home:
- Remove any tripping hazards that you find.
- Install grab bars in the tub and shower, both inside and outside.
- Check that the stairwell has railings on both sides.
- Make sure there is enough light both inside and outside the house.
Unfortunately, some of the causes of falls cannot be easily eliminated. Managing medical conditions and collaborating with your doctor can help reduce falls caused by medications or medical conditions. In many cases, there is little you can do to avoid these dangers. The best thing you can do to reduce these risks is to consult with your doctor and devise a plan together.
One thing to remember is that everyone’s fall risk is different. A one-size-fits-all approach to fall prevention will not work for everyone. You must assess the risks that may affect you or a loved one. This will allow you to devise a strategy that addresses the individual’s most important concerns.
It can be difficult to identify fall hazards in our own homes and in ourselves at times. We are accustomed to our surroundings and may overlook potential hazards. This is especially true if you have lived in your home before your personal fall risk increased. Things that you used to take for granted as a child are now potential hazards. Healthcare professionals, home health aides, and others are frequently willing to assist you in conducting a fall hazard assessment of yourself and your home. They can see things that we may overlook and can be a valuable resource for advice on how to mitigate those risks.
Medical Alerts or Fall Detection Devices
One of the primary reasons why seniors lose their independence and ability to live on their own is the risk of falling. Fall detection devices or medical alerts are one option for assisting a person to stay on their own for a longer period of time. Some medical alert systems detect falls and notify the alert center if one is detected. Here’s how it works.
Medical alert devices are typically worn around the neck. It has a large button on it. If the individual has an emergency, they can press the button, which sends a signal to the call center. An operator will answer the call and, if necessary, summon a family member or emergency services. Those with fall detection will automatically send a call to the center, which can be useful if the person is unconscious and unable to respond.
Fall detection employs some of the same sensors found on your smartphone. To detect a fall, they use accelerometers and other motion sensors. Sensors collect data and feed it into an algorithm. Most systems are now very good at detecting an actual fall rather than a false alarm.
Because medical alert neck devices are waterproof, they can be worn in the shower, which is a common location for falls. Bracelets and watches are now being offered by some companies. The majority of fall detection devices are lightweight and comfortable to use.
Considerations Before Purchasing Medical Alert Devices
Before purchasing a medical alert with fall detection, make sure you are aware of any monthly monitoring fees. Make sure you understand the company’s cancellation policy and that you carefully read any contracts. If there is anything you do not understand, please ask.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are some con artists out there who will sell you a device that does not do what it is supposed to do or does not come with a monitoring service. These devices are worthless scraps of plastic. Unfortunately, these individuals prefer to prey on seniors over the phone or through the mail. Many of them will charge exorbitant fees and make claims like “100% accuracy.” If something sounds too good to be true, it is most likely not true.
Buying from a reputable company that has been in business for a long time is the best way to avoid these scams. Your doctor or caregiver can probably put you in touch with some devices that have a good reputation in the industry. Check with organizations like AARP, Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau as well.
Testing Medical Alerts
No device is completely accurate, and some are superior to others. When you get your new device, practice different moves with your caregiver to see which ones set off the device. The device should be triggered by a sudden movement followed by a period of silence. When testing the device, make sure to remain still for a few seconds after the simulated fall.
Fall detection devices may not detect slow, gradual falls, such as sliding out of a wheelchair, but they should detect hard, sudden falls. If they do not, you should contact customer service to have the device troubleshooted. Most of them should be worn outside of clothing to properly register a fall.
The first thing you should learn is how to cancel a false alarm. The alarm may sound if you bend over quickly to pick something up or if you drop it. Most of them have a separate button for canceling the call, or you must speak with a representative. If you do not, they will dispatch emergency services and assume you are unconscious.
A fall detection device is not perfect, but it adds an extra layer of security. You have access to dispatch and emergency services, which will respond even if you are alone and unable to dial 911. This extra layer of protection can provide peace of mind for those who must leave their parents and other loved ones alone. For those who are afraid of falling or have previously experienced a fall, these devices can restore your confidence and allow you to do things you were previously afraid of. Because of the added security, they can allow you to live alone for much longer.