Preventing and Recovering from Falls in the Home
With people living longer and more people preferring to remain in their own homes, falls are increasing in frequency. It is naturally important to know what action to take following an injury from a fall, but understanding why falls in the home occur and how they can be prevented can make the difference between independent living and admission to a residential care home.
What Causes Elderly People to Fall in the Home?
Many falls at home occur in the bathroom, where an older person may use something inappropriate such as a towel rail or shower curtain for support when using the facilities. Accidents happen because these things are not designed to support a person’s weight, and this combined with slippery surfaces can mean that the person falls getting in or out of the bath or shower, sometimes with devastating results.
Other risk factors for falls in the home are slippery mats or rugs, trailing wires that might cause a trip hazard, poor lighting and items placed in locations that are too high or low so that the older person has to reach too far for them, possibly losing their balance.
How Can Falls in the Home Be Prevented?
Installing grab bars or handrails in the bathroom can assist independent living by giving the older person something strong to support them when using the shower or getting in or out of the bath. A raised toilet seat and safety frame can help anyone who has balance problems or difficulty sitting down or standing up from the toilet. People who have difficulty getting in or out of the bath may benefit from the use of a transfer bench. It is always important to have a non-slip mat in the base of the shower or bath.
People who have difficulty standing or who have balance problems may find using a chair in the shower the best solution. Shower chairs have rubber feet to prevent slipping and enable the user to shower whilst sitting down.
Ensure that any rugs are fixed down and do not constitute a trip hazard. Loose wires should be tidied away from areas where the person walks.
Floors in potentially wet areas such as kitchens or bathrooms should have non-slip finishes or non-slip mats placed in front of toilets, sinks and in areas that may get wet. It is also important that the person wears footwear with non-slip soles.
Adequate lighting should be installed, and frequently used items should be kept within easy reach.
One of the most important aspects of fall prevention is teaching the elderly person how to transfer safely from one place to another and to stand up slowly from a chair or bed to prevent dizziness that might cause them to fall.
What to Do If a Fall Occurs
It is important that the older person knows what to do if they do fall, so it is a good idea to practise the steps to take to get themselves to their feet if they have not suffered an injury. If this is not possible, they should call for help. Having an alarm system in place for this eventuality will increase their confidence and make it easier for them to continue to live independently.