One of the more important and easily overlooked aspects of care involves the prevention of falls. When caring for those with degenerative health conditions, late-stage mental health problems, or even with the weakness that comes with old age, it is vital that you take the appropriate steps to minimise the risks, of those under your care, being harmed from falls. These range from medical solutions to simple steps you can take yourself. The following is a guide to preventing falls in a care environment.
Active and medical solutions for fall prevention
If you or someone under your care falls, be it once or especially repeatedly, it is important to get it checked out by a GP. While elderly people often feel reluctant to go to a doctor over something like a fall, the health services take them very seriously in old age. They can give balance tests to see if there is a particular risk of falls in the future, and refer you to appropriate services nearby if needed.
Often older adults have to take multiple types of medications, and having these reviewed on a yearly basis is a necessity, to make sure you are still healthy in taking them. Greater emphasis is placed on this advice if the person in question is on four or more medications daily. Recommendations for change will be given if any side effects from the medication seem to increase your likelihood of having a fall.
Having regular eye tests is also an important medical step to take. Ensuring vision is as accurate as possible can minimise risks of falls arising from having not noticed smaller objects while walking around. Getting checked for suspected cataracts is a related issue, and should be done as soon as possible when they are suspected.
It is possible to improve your strength and balance through exercises, which can be simple things like walking or dancing. Community centres offer specialist programmes tailored for older people in this regard, as do many gyms. GPs can be asked for recommendations, and they may be able to point you to local training centres. While walking is a good step to take and is relatively simple, anything more specialised should ideally be monitored by a healthcare professional, as they can pose other health risks stemming from mostly over-exertion. In general, always follow your doctor or trainer’s advice. You may feel you can do more or push yourself further, but it isn’t worth the risks.
Preventing falls - how to make the home safer
As important, if not more so, as taking steps to improve health-related causes of falls, is making the home a more accommodating and accessible place. These are all simple steps but have a massive effect. Clearing up spillages immediately, for example, is very simple. Setting up non-slip mats in baths and showers, as well as covering areas of low-friction floors in rugs is also a good step and will prevent many falls going forward.
Wardrobe changes can also help life at home. Switching from loose-fitting clothes that tend to trail behind the wearer can stop accidental trips, and supplementing this with firm, well-fitting footwear that gives strong ankle support can also improve the situation. Getting foot problems checked out by a GP helps too, and proper care over trimming nails is a practical step to take.
More drastic changes might be recommended, depending on exactly how much someone is suffering from falls. Re-organising the home could be a pain, but by shifting furniture to help minimise bending, stretching, and climbing you will see a massive reduction in risk. Likewise, removing clutter as well as replacing frayed carpets are useful steps to take. Proper cable management too, since trailing cables present a dangerous tripping hazard.
If the concern is particularly strong, it may be worth organising a home hazard assessment. This will be carried out by a healthcare professional who has ample experience with fall prevention. They will do two things: they will identify any potential hazards in the home, but also highlight how the way the environment is used will add to their risks. They will give you advice on how to deal with the assessed hazards. Steps will be recommended, like the fitting of bars to a bath to give more support when getting in or out, or perhaps one of the other steps above you could take.
Preventing falls - lifestyle changes
Making certain lifestyle changes will also help prevent falls. Alcohol consumption reduces one’s balance, as well as amplifying the effects of certain medications. This naturally leads to a significantly increased risk of falls. Excessive drinking leads to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, which will make any falls more dangerous. It is vital to cut down on alcohol consumption. If the reduced falls aren’t enough incentive, then remember that reducing alcohol consumption has many other health benefits too.
Often though, the most difficult step in preventing falls lies with the patient recognising their need to ask for help. Be it something as simple as asking for help with getting something off a shelf, older people often feel like admitting they need help with these things signals the beginning of the end of their dignity and independence. This doesn’t have to be so, as the ability and means to ask for help can make it so someone could stay at home rather than need the support of a care home. Fitting a personal alarm so that help can be signalled for is a great step, or keeping a mobile phone on their person for the same purpose. This means that help can be provided whenever it is needed.
At Flexebee we offer comprehensive Fall Prevention Awareness training, as well as a course that covers slips, trips and falls. These e-learning courses are suited to carers who deal with elderly patients and those with disabilities who are more likely to require help preventing falls, whether in their own home or a care environment.
We offer further courses on how to treat those in care or who require assistance, on our Care Essentials page.
Check out our What is Reablement? blog for further information on how to get someone back on their feet after an injury or illness.