So your loved ones are getting older and life’s getting a bit more complicated than it used to be.
Maybe their vision is getting worse, they have more aches and pains and it’s more difficult to walk up and down the stairs. Maybe their memory is starting to fog or suffering dementia. Grandma forgot she left the stove on, your Uncle can’t remember where he put his (very important) diabetes medication.
The effects of aging can be worrisome, especially for people who want to make sure the seniors in their lives are healthy. If the older adult doesn’t live in a senior home, family members often have to make sure their house is set up in a way for seniors to live as comfortably as possible.
Making these changes can feel demanding and meeting each senior’s specific needs might be puzzling.
Wherever you are on exploring this stage of life, we’re here to make sure you’re ready for every situation.
Here’s everything you need to know to keep your senior loved ones safe at home.
Why Assessing Home Safety Is Vital for Older Adults
Okay, so perhaps your Grandpa’s health is right as rain and you’re not worried about him in the slightest. He’s 70-years-old running marathons and doing CrossFit twice a week. You’re not worried about him at all.
But here’s why you should at least check in on him — or any other older family member — and their home’s safety: One in four older adults over the age of 65 suffer from falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the majority of these falls occur at home.
Every year, three million older adults are treated in the emergency rooms for fall injuries, which costs $50 million annually. The elderly who have fallen are often treated for broken bones (most common are wrist, arm, hip and ankle fractures) and brain injuries. In fact, falls are the most common cause of life-threatening brain trauma.
Even if a senior collapses and doesn’t injure themselves, the emotional trauma of having fallen can have a lasting impact. Losing one’s ability to move and be aware of one’s surroundings is scary so it’s best to prevent these falls as much as possible.
Of course, the risk of falls aren’t the only thing to worry about. When it comes to quality of life for older adults, we have to be mindful of what medications they are using. We have to make sure they have the right health devices and buy them safe appliances. We should question the accessibility of each room in the house…. and this is all just the start of it.
Helping Seniors Move Around the House
There’s so much you have to think about when you have an elder citizen living in your home or even independently of you.
For the most part, experts suggest that a large chunk of your time should be dedicated to making sure that your senior loved one can move about the house without injuring themselves. Remember that falls are the top concern for older adults and there are certain measures we can take to prevent them from happening.
For example, helping your senior get from point A to point B could be as simple as buying them well-fitting shoes with proper support and sturdy heels. Anyone could easily trip in some poorly fitting shoes. Imagine the risks when you start to lose your motor skills.
Besides buying your elder the right kicks, there are a lot of hazards you need to look out for around there home.
Here’s how to address the house room-by-room:
Room-by-Room Safeguarding for the Elderly
Foyer and Hallways
This is the place where people put on or take off all of their outerwear: Shoes, coats, scarfs, hats and bags … Depending on the weather and depending on the person, getting dressed to head out the door can be quite the process.
If you’re able-bodied, strong and got your wits about you putting your boots on might not be a problem, but for the elderly, it could be quite difficult to balance themselves with their gear.
To help out older adults, consider putting a bench by the door. That way when it’s time to get ready, they have a place to sit and put their clothes on in a safe manner.
In addition, entrance halls tend to be homes for “Welcome” mats and door rugs. Mats and rugs that aren’t attached to the floor can slip and slide and cause someone to trip. If you have any sort of throw rugs in the foyer, use double-sided tape to keep that mat from moving or make sure to buy rugs with non-slip backing.
For those with arthritis, round door knobs can be a pain. Replace these knobs with levers, instead.
Lastly, if you live in a home that has narrow door/hallways, think about widening them. Seniors who use wheelchairs, walkers or other mobile devices will thank you for that.
Water and slick surfaces make for a dangerous combo everyone’s safety. That’s why the bathroom is one of the most hazardous places in the house. Every year, about 235,000 people over age 15 have been injured in the bathroom, most of which occur while bathing or showering.
Elderly people are particularly most at risk when using the toilet because not every senior has the ability to sit and stand. Able-bodied individuals often don’t realize how much strength, balance and mobility it takes to use a toilet successfully.
So to help elders use the toilet and avoid other bathroom hazards:
- Consider using a raised toilet seat or a toilet seat elevator. Experts recommend that toilet seats that are 17 to 20 inches high make using the toilet a more comfortable experience.
- Install grab bars. If possible, put them on the wall(s) next to the toilet or buy safety rail devices/commodes that can slink in behind the bowl. You should also install grab bars inside and outside any showers and bathrooms.
- Place non-slip rubber mats in slippery areas. Put these in front of any sinks and both inside and outside showers and tubs.
- Buy a stool or chair for grooming purposes. If your beloved senior loves to groom themselves in front of a mirror, get them a stool to make it easier for them to complete their daily routine.
- Consider retrofitting your plumbing. You can install walk-in tubs and showers so the elderly in your home don’t have to step over any barriers to take a bath. You can also insert foldable chairs so they can shower sitting down with a flexible shower wand. As for the toilet, you can add a raised toilet seat or install a toilet seat elevator.
- Make sure the doors lock and unlock on both sides. If anything bad were to happen in the bathroom, you want to make sure that you can get in to help.
- Keep the water heater at 120 degrees F or lower. This is important because some seniors have impaired senses and slow reaction time. That means if the water is scalding hot, they might not notice it right away or be quick enough to change the temperature. Hot water baths and cold water baths can also be dangerous for older adults who have health issues. So keep the water at a safe temperature, and if needed, monitor your elders when they choose to hop in the tub.
Since most medicines are kept in the bathroom, it’s important to be aware of how they are stored so that seniors can use them appropriately.
- Clearly label medicines and check that the labels are visible. If the senior suffers from poor vision, create labels that have a large font. Also check to see that the medicine cabinet has adequate lighting. You don’t want anyone to take the wrong medication and the improper dosage because they were unable to read the label.
- Toss out old or expired medications. While some researchers suggest that many medications are still effective years after the expiration date, it’s better to be safe than sorry — particularly if that drug is life-saving. Also liquid medications can be a welcome environment for bacteria and fungus over time. You don’t want anyone to put contaminated meds in their mouth or eyes.
- Consider ordering bubble packs. This can be a convenient option for older adults who need to take a lot of different medications throughout the day. Ask your pharmacists to organize their pills in seven-day or 31-day bubble packs so your loved one doesn’t have to sort through pills every day. All they have to do is to pop the pills out of the pack given the time of day. Pill cases also work, but someone still has to sort everything out each week/month. Why not have your pharmacist help you out?
- Check for borrowed meds. Sometimes when people suffer from certain ailments and don’t have the resources to get the medication they need, they’ll accept drugs from friends who have perhaps suffered from something similar. This can be very dangerous. Doctors prescribe drugs specifically according to each person’s needs and so one patient’s pills may not be appropriate for somebodyelse. If you find some medicine that seems to belong to someoneother than your elder ask them about it and discuss the dangers of borrowing medication.
While bathrooms are the most dangerous places when it comes to falls, bedrooms are another area of top concern. Bedrooms tend to be smaller with more furniture. Elders have to figure out how to get in and out of bed … There are a many hazards within this space that need to be addressed.
To senior-proof the bedroom:
- Remove excess furniture. The less things you have to move around, the better. If an older adult doesn’t have the best motor skills, it’s best to create a space they don’t have to zig-zag through to do what they need to do.
- Plug in those nightlights. Some seniors make frequent trips to the bathroom at night so it’s important that they can see when it’s dark. This is especially important for older adults with poor eyesight.
- Consider getting a bedside commode or urinal. If the person is unable to get to the bathroom, it might be best to have these nearby.
- Place gait aids close to the bed. Make sure walkers, wheelchairs and all other mobile aids are within arms reach of the bed.
- Install bed rails or floor to ceiling poles. Getting up can be extremely challenging for seniors. If this is the case for the person you are taking care of, try installing bed rails or support poles so they can use their arms to hoist themselves up.
- If needed, assist the older adult as they get up. Even if they have these support rails, you might want to give them an extra hand when they are trying to get out of bed. Sometimes the elderly can get up too quickly, which causes dizziness.
- Remove clutter and keep cords out of the way. This will reduce the likeliness of them tripping on anything. If you have any sort of cord on the floor, make sure they are hidden behind furniture or at least out of the walkways.
- Fix damaged floors and carpets. Damaged flooring can be a major tripping hazard.
- Make sure night stands are accessible from the bed. This will allow night lamps, medication and any other important items accessible.
- Ensure that the mattress height is not too high. Getting into bed can also be tough for seniors. Proper height will vary according to each person’s ability and stature.
When it comes to the kitchen, you want to make sure the room is convenient and equipped with senior friendly appliances. The last thing you want is for Aunty to stop cooking because she can’t reach her utensils or for Grandpa to forget that he left the stove on.
- Store frequently-used utensils and food within reach. This could be as extreme as remodeling the cabinets so that they are more accessible. Or this could be as simple as rearranging all of the pots, pans and seasonings so seniors don’t have to do a deep search for what they need. A reacher-grabber also might come in handy to get hard-to-reach items.
- Store knives in a rack. If exposed sharp knives are kept in a drawer with other utensils, there’s a chance that an older adult could grab something that could hurt them.
- Buy a comfortable counter stool. Some older adults no longer have the ability or the stamina to cook while standing. A stool would help them significantly.
- Get a well-lit refrigerator. Get one that is well-lit so that the older adult will be able to see what food they are taking out of the fridge. Refrigerators with clear bins are also helpful in this regard. Make sure the refrigerator doors have long, one-piece handles. These are easier to grip for those who have arthritis or a medical condition that causes numbness in the hands and fingers.
- Label foods with expiration dates. Write large if your elder has trouble seeing.
- Buy automatic stove shut-off devices. These sensors are great for preventing gas leaks and fires.You can also get appliances (like coffee pots and kettles) with shut-off features.
- Install and automatic fire extinguisher. These are heat-sensored and can be placed over a stove. The powder that sprays from these devices will be sure to put out any stove-top fire.
- Consider replacing the stove with a microwave. Microwaves make cooking much simpler and are less likely to cause a house fire. Make sure to tell your senior how to use it safely.
- Regularly check your fire and CO alarms. It’s important that these devices work so that you can be alerted when trouble breaks loose.
- Replace glass items with plastic ones. This way your senior will avoid having to clean up shattered dishware. Consider replacing heavy pots and pans with lighter ones, as well. They’ll be much easier to handle.
This is where you’ve got your couch, the TV and your decorative furniture. Maybe you’ve got potted plants here and there. A coffee table with a throw rug. While oftentimes the living room is a place to relax, play and host, it can be a minefield for the elderly who don’t always have their wits about them.
To make your living room comfortable for older adults:
- Clear the floors. Watch out for runners, rugs, fallen remotes, loose toys or any other items that could make a dangerous obstacle. Older adults tend to have shorter and smaller steps than their younger counterparts so it’s important that all tripping hazards are eliminated.
- Check the carpeting. If you happen to have a carpet on the floor, make sure there’s no loose thread or holes for people to trip on.
- Rearrange the furniture in a way where there is plenty of open space to move safely.
- Use secure furniture and decorative items. Many times seniors with mobility issues use the items around them for balance and stability as they move about. If your living room has a lot of items that can tip over or move easily, consider removing them. Look for things like rolling chairs, table lamps or any lightweight furniture.
- Consider installing grab bars. To eliminate the chances of Grandma grabbing onto an item that can fall over, install some sturdy grab bars where it’s convenient for her.
- Hide the cords. Minimize the space between outlets and electronic devices so that you don’t have cords running across your living room.
- Replace your remotes. Many TV remotes have dozens of buttons that can be hard to read. Consider replacing them with remotes that are simplified with larger buttons.
- Consider buying a senior friendly recliner.There are chairs out there that can lift a person to near- standing position. They are incredibly useful for seniors who have trouble getting off their seat.
If the older adult in your life is still washing their own clothes, it’s important that you arrange the laundry room so they can do the chore safely.
Try these tips to make the space more convenient:
- Buy easy-to-use appliances. Get washers and dryers that have legible controls located at the front of the machine. If they are in the back, they might be hard to reach for people in wheelchairs. In that regard, front-loading washers and dryers with side-opening doors are more convenient appliances.
- Add easy-roll storage near the washer and dryer. This can be a great place to put all of the detergents and dryer cloths.
- Provide a seated work area. This makes folding clothes a lot easier.
- Get a rolling laundry cart. Carrying clothes around in a bin can be too big of an ask for most seniors. But a rolling cart will help them transport heavier loads around the laundry room.
- Use an adjustable ironing board. This way, seniors can press out their clothes while seated.
- Install a low clothesline. Have it at a height where your elder can hang the delicates.
A person needs to have proper balance, stamina and depth perception to go up and down a staircase safely. But all stairs are not made alike. Some have high and wide steps; some have narrower and low steps; some are “open backed”, which means you can probably see through to the floor; and some staircases have steps that are all sorts of dimensions.
Stairs can be a great challenge for older adults. But here’s how you can make this area easier to climb.
- Clear stairs of loose rugs and obstacles. Loose items can make anyone trip down the stairs.
- Make sure the staircase has good lighting. Light is extremely important for depth perception. If your staircase is particularly dark, consider installing lights along the steps.
- Consider installing rubber, abrasive treads or non-slip tape. This will help prevent falls.
- Install secure handrails on both sides. This is highly recommended because they will help people stabilize themselves on the way up and down.
- Consider getting rid of “open backed” stairs. If the house has “open backed” stairs, you may need to do a bit of construction. These types of staircases can cause visual disturbances and mess with perception.
- Warn seniors against wearing reading glasses while using the stairs. Bifocals and “cheaters” can definitely hurt one’s perception and cause dizziness.
- Consider buying a stair lift. If your elder has a lot of trouble navigating the stairs, a stair lift is a great option.
Driveways and Porches
Because of adverse weather — like rain, ice and snow — and potentially uneven surfaces, driveways and porches can be highly risky places for older adults to traverse.
- Sweep everything clean. Make sure all driveways and decks are free of debris.
- Decorate the porch with waterproof and textured paint. This will cause more traction and prevent falls.
- Paint low curbs with bright paint. If you’re allowed to do this around your property, it will help to identify those pesky curbs.
- Install outdoor sensor lighting. This way, anytime your Grandpa steps outside, he will have plenty of light to see where he is going.
- Place handrails by any stairs. For added support use abrasive strips or rubber stair treads to prevent slippage.
- Salt the driveway when it snows. You don’t want any ice to form on the driveway. Cat litter also works for added traction.
- Remove protruding tree roots from driveway and sidewalks. These are tripping hazards.
Nowadays, there are many older adults that use computers, cell phones and the Internet as they go about their daily lives. Unfortunately, seniors are the most vulnerable to phishing and other scams than any other age group.
While it’s still important to protect older people from tripping over objects and stray cords in the office, it’s important that we protect them around technology as well
- Educate seniors about hackers. Explain how dangerous it can be to open a suspicious email or click on a foreign attachment. Perhaps the sender is pretending to be the government and requests that the recipient send their social security number. The government will never ask for such personal information via email, but not everyone knows this. Hackers can easily take over one’s computer and steal information if people are unaware.
- Installing malware-fighting software. This fights viruses and decreases the chances of being hacked.
- Warn seniors about phone scams. Some criminals will call the house saying that you owe them money or that you won a free trip just to get your personal information. Tell your older loved ones about the warning signs. Get them caller ID to filter out unknown callers. You can sign up for a “do not call” registry to block telemarketers.
Protecting Older Adults with Dementia
Much of the advice we have given thus far addresses the elderly who have common physical and visual impairments that could create distress around the home. However, there are also many individuals who suffer from dementia-like syndromes such as Alzheimer’s, which require caregivers to be more vigilant in protecting the older adults in their lives.
If one of your loved ones has dementia or Alzheimer’s, here are some extra tips to keep them safe:
- Make sure locks are out of sight. Older adults with a degenerative brain disease are at risk of wandering and getting lost. In this case, you don’t want them to get outside without your knowledge. Place deadbolts either high or low on exterior doors so they are out of reach.
- Store poisonous chemicals where they can’t be easily accessed. Check the kitchen, garage and the laundry room for chemicals that could potentially poison your loved one if ingested. Make sure bottled have secure lids. Add lid locks if possible.
- Disable weapons and other harmful tools. Put them in a secure place. Disarm any guns your might own. Some elders who suffer from dementia mistakenly believe their caretakers are intruders.
- Install a hidden gas valve or circuit breaker in the kitchen. This way a person with dementia can’t turn the stove on. You might even consider removing the knobs to the stove altogether.
Support Groups for People Who Deal with Dementia
Taking care for someone who has dementia can be emotionally draining and incredibly heartbreaking. Being a good caregiver not only means being responsible for someone else’s well-being, it also means making sure your emotional needs are met.
How can you properly watch over another person when you aren’t in a good place?
Thankfully there are plenty of support groups out there to help you through a time that can be extremely challenging.
How to Save Money if You Need to Renovate The House
Before you make any decisions, here are some tips to help reduce the cost of whatever changes you want to make:
- Consult with a certified Aging-In-Place specialists. Don’t think you have to turn your whole house upside down. Talk with a specialist and they will able to assess exactly what you need. They could also help you find low- and/or no-cost solutions. Occupational therapist can also be of service.
- Plan ahead. If you are remodeling the tub already and you know you might need some grab bars for your Grandpa who is moving in, plan for that now. Otherwise, you might have to make more expensive changes later.
- Hire a contractor to build out larger items. You might be better off having a contractor to build you a custom ramp rather than getting one from a medical supply company that doesn’t manufacture them.
- Buy dual purpose items. For example, a grab bar can also act as a towel bar.
Precautions to Take When An Aging Adult Wants to Live on Their Own
Many older adults are able to maintain great physical and mental health, even in their later years. Because of this, they may choose to live independently and might not need as much hands-on care. While your elder might not need as much assistance, it’s important to prepare for any accidents that could happen down the road.
Let’s talk about some preventive measures we can take to make sure our independent elders remain safe and healthy.
Encourage Seniors to Buy a Medical Alert System
One of the major concerns for seniors who live on their own is not being able to get help if they have a health emergency. If the older adult falls in an area of the house, where they can’t reach a phone or any communication device, they could be at risk for more health complications and even death.
Luckily, there are many medical alert systems out there that can contact support — whether that’s medical assistance, a friend or a family member — immediately when emergencies occur.
Each system has different features and so it’s important that you understand what your needs are (and what your elder’s needs are) before you set out to purchase anything.
When looking at medical alert systems, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want a home-based system or a mobile? Some companies sell home-based systems which connect to landlines. This type of system could suit an older adult who is not as mobile and mostly stays at home. If they have an emergency, they can press their wearable call button and the system will connect them to a dispatcher. But if you’re dealing with a more active senior, a mobile system might be preferable. Mobile systems use cellular and GPS networks to connect older adults to the support they need. So not only do they work in the home, they are useful even when the older adult is out and about. Mobile devices can also help when seniors get lost.
- Do I want a monitored system? Monitored systems come with call buttons that can connect you with a dispatcher at any time of day. They are available 24/7. Non-monitored systems, however, need to be programmed so that the call button reaches out to all emergency contacts (friends and/or family) and medical assistance. Monitored systems tend to be more expensive since the devices come with a monthly fee. For non-monitored systems there are no extra costs.
- Do I want a fall detection feature? Some companies offer this feature for a monthly fee. Fall detection acts like an emergency call button so in some ways, it’s like cutting out the middleman. However, experts say that this technology has not been perfected yet. If a senior happens to drop the device or move in such a way that it registers as a fall, they might be sending off false alarms.
Since smartphone and smart home technology, you might think that a cell phone or a digital assistant might be a great replacement for a medical alert system.
But before you make that decision keep this in mind: People do not always have their cellphones on them all of the time and depending on the severity of the emergency, the older adult might not have the ability to dial right contact to call for help .
Digital assistants like Amazon Alexa could come in handy at times like these, but it’s important to note that these devices may not have all of the features you need. Right now, Alexa and Google Assistant can call landline and cell phone numbers, but they cannot dial 911. They also only respond to voice, and if the person in crisis can’t speak, these assistants may not be of use.
The bottom line is this: Talk to the older adults in your life and see which system is best for them.
Other Products That Can Assist Seniors
While Medical alert systems are for emergencies, there are other devices that can help seniors in their daily routines.
You might want to check out some of these high-tech gadgets to increase their quality of life:
- Health and activity monitors. These products check heart rate, respiration, sleeping and other vital signs. Some even track ADLs (or activities of daily living) so you can keep track if Grandpa is brushing his teeth and going to the bathroom.
- Smart pill dispensers. These will automatically dispense the right pills and the right dosage at the right time. Some will also send alerts to notify the user.
- Location tracking devices. Some older adults who suffer from mental health issues get lost when they go out for errands. To help keep track of your loved one, consider buying them a tracking device so you can always find them.
Encourage Seniors to Exercise
One of the main reasons older adults are at risk of falling is because they tend to lose strength, balance and coordination not only from aging but from increased sedentary lifestyles. Exercise is a great way for seniors to maintain a certain level of mobility as they get older.
If you’re beloved elders aren’t leading very active live, it might be a good idea to encourage them to develop a consistent workout routine.
What are some safe exercise regimens for people 65 years and older? Well it depends on each individual and it’s always important to consult a doctor before trying any sort of routine.
But here are some types of activities that are generally safe to explore:
- Yoga or chair yoga
- Tai Chi
- Light weight training
- Climbing stairs
If the older adult is not sure how to start working out again, or if they are afraid of going to the gym, consider getting them a personal trainer that can come to their home. The most important thing here is to encourage Grandma and Grandpa to keep moving, so that they can continue to live active lives.
Senior Driving Safety Tips
If a senior decides to drive, it’s important that they are aware of their abilities and limitations. Many older adults can drive without any worries, but they must be more vigilant about their safety before they hit the road.
Here are some safety precautions you can suggest to mature drivers to reduce their risk of collision:
- Get routine health checkups. It’s important that older adults get evaluated or seek treatment for ailments that might affect their driving. It’s also important for seniors to check in with themselves to determined if they are even fit enough to be in the driver’s seat. If they are suffering from:
- Fatigue … They may not want to be driving for too long. Driving while fatigued can be as dangerous as driving while drunk.
- Pain or stiffness in the joints … Handling a steering wheel might be difficult and they could have a hard time turning to view the side mirrors.
- Any chronic condition … Like diabetes and seizures. The symptoms of these conditions might compromise their ability to drive safely.
- Stress. Stress can aggravate any existing conditions.
- Schedule regular hearing and vision screenings. Older adults need to get checked for common eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Seniors also need to be able to hear other vehicles and emergency sirens. If they can’t, they need to find a doctor to prescribe the appropriate hearing aid.
- Always wear glasses or contact lenses, if needed.
- Lower the volume of any music. This will ensure that the older adult can hear what’s going on on the road.
- Increase following distance. Older adults need to give themselves more space between their vehicle and other cars. This way they will have more reaction time to hit the brakes.
- Brake early. For seniors with less spatial awareness, it’s best for them to brake early as those stop signs/lights approach. That way they won’t have to make any jarring halts.
- Anticipate rather than react. Advise older adults to scan as far down the road as possible so they know what’s coming.
- Check any medications. It’s important to read the labels on all medications so that no one is ever driving drowsy or lightheaded. Many medications say “DO NOT DRIVE” if they are too risky to take before a ride. But if there is ever any doubts, consult the pharmacist that prescribed them.
- Adjust driving position. Old or not, this is important for every driver. Check that the steering wheel, driver’s seat, side and rear view mirrors are all at the right positions for safe and effective driving.
- Avoid dangerous situations. If possible, older drivers might want to avoid driving in harsh weather conditions, during rush hour and when it’s dark.
- Take a mature driving course. These courses are great for learning defensive driving skills. Even if the older adult is a seasoned driver, a refresher couldn’t hurt!
How to Check in On Senior Neighbors
So you don’t have any elderly relatives or friends, but you’re concerned about your older neighbor who lives two doors down. You want to help them out, but maybe you’re afraid of being too intrusive.
Don’t be shy! Here are some tips on how you can be a helping hand.
- Build a relationship with them. Not everybody likes to receive assistance. But the more you get to know a person, the barriers start to fall. At that point, they might be more willing to let you help them.
- Keep an eye on their daily routine. If they haven’t gone to the grocery store in a while or they haven’t gone to their usual spin class, then you might be able to recognize when something’s amiss.
- Ask if they need any chores done around the house. Maybe they need someone to throw out the trash or clean the gutters.
- Offer rides to the doctor or other appointments. Perhaps they need someone to take them to the barber to get their haircut.
- When you are running errands, offer to run errands for them too. If you are going to the grocery store anyway and you have extra room in your car, you could also pick up some things for your senior friend.
- If you are shoveling snow, shovel your neighbor’s as well. They might appreciate you saving them from back pain.
- If you haven’t seen your neighbor out, call the police. If the mail and newspapers start stacking up on the doorstep, that could be a red flag that something is wrong. When in doubt, call the cops and ask for a wellness check.
What to Do If An Older Adult Falls
You need to seek medical assistance as soon as possible because a fall could indicate that there’s a new medical condition that needs treatment. You also need to be familiar with what the doctors need to assess while they are treating the older adult. Busy physicians might not be as thorough as they need to be when it comes to giving a proper health evaluation.
So when you take the elderly to the doctor, make sure they do these assessments:
- Check for underlying illnesses. Common ones include urinary tract infection, dehydration, anemia, pneumonia, heart problems and strokes
- Blood pressure and pulse readings when sitting and standing. A drop in blood pressure could cause a person to feel faint. If the patient is taking blood pressure medication, the doctor needs to make sure their blood pressure doesn’t drop when standing.
- Blood tests. A complete blood cell count, an electrolyte measurement and kidney evaluation are generally the best places to start. A drop or increase in blood cells and blood sodium can cause falls. If the older adult has diabetes, bring their glucometer or a blood sugar log. Low blood sugar can increase the risk of falls, but general blood tests don’t indicate every moment blood sugar drops.
- Medication review. Some medications — like sedatives, opiate pain medications, “Anticholinergic” drugs, and diabetes medications can seriously compromise spacial awareness and balance.
- Gait and balance test. The doctor will be able to determine if the cause of the fall was due to pain in their feet, joints, or back. If this is the case ask for a physical therapy referral.
- Vitamin D level exam. Low vitamin D levels can also increase the risk of falling as well as lead to fragile bones.
- Heart and neurological condition scans. These are not the same as the acute conditions that doctors usually look for after a fall. These are usually chronic conditions (like Parkinson’s disease) that would cause recurrent falls.
- Vision, podiatry and home safety referrals. Perhaps your elder just needs new glasses or special shoes. Or maybe they just need a home safety reevaluation. Your doctor can help initiate the process.
Independent or Not, Elderly Citizens Can Live Long and Happy Lives
Aging doesn’t have to be a scary thing — not for the elderly or for the people who take care of them. Proper caregiving involves a lot of preparation and reorientation as the older adult adjusts to lifestyle changes. This process can take some time so it’s important that everyone involved remains patient and compassionate towards one another.
Elderly citizens can live long, healthy and vibrant lives … especially if they’ve got you to help them see it through.