Our topic today is about how to avoid falls.
I spoke with John Jurchack, from ‘Healthy at Home,’ who is an expert on senior care.
I was recently looking at No-Step communities. They have town houses that are entirely flat. Even the little raises that go between rooms or height differences on floor levels can trip you up and put someone on a hospital bed for an extended period of time.
This is important because falls are a big deal.
It doesn’t take much at all, the Amercians disability act defines a trip hazard as a quarter inch, so we’re talking about an eraser head on a pencil. Even the door jams, getting rid of those. It can be as simple as going from a kitchen floor to a carpeted surface.
It doesn’t take much to catch that foot, so an architectural assessment, having someone look at that environment, make recommendations is real important, if people put throw rugs down or different kind of décor, they can set themselves up for a fall without even knowing it.
Why is it so important for a senior to avoid a fall?
I’d like to say that falling is not a normal part of aging. I think some people feel, I’ve reached a certain age, this is just normal. We can’t be apathetic to this cause, if you do get injured especially a fractured hip, the mortality rate is extremely high. So the prevention is the best cure for that is not falling in the first place.
A statistic that comes to mind that really opened my eyes is, senior adults, those 65 years of age and older are 16 times more likely to end up admitted to the ER or hospital from a fall than those younger from a car accident.
And what can we do?
There are two categories: Your modifiable risk factors and your non modifiable. So non modifiable may be your age, maybe your race, your cognitive level. We can’t change those types of things but what we can do is look at modifiable risk factors.
There’s going to be muscle weakness, especially lower extremities, and medications, has your eye prescription been updated, vision is so important as it relates to falls.
So those types of things, environment, postural hypertension, your blood pressure is dropping when you stand up, and also any medical history, including symptoms of depression. Diagnosis of depression raises your fall risk by 50%.
Let’s talk about visual deficits. What are some of the things we can do to deal with that?
As we age sometimes we have difficulty seeing contrasts. So if everything in your house is white, you may not see that door jam, or the lip of the stair, you can’t see the depth perception. So a simple solution is carry that high glow neon duct tape, and put it along the edges of those raises, whether it’s a door jam or stair. 75% of the falls happen at home, so that is the best place to really do that assessment.
As far as vision and falls, you really have 3 different systems in your body to keep you from falling.
1- Is your nervous system. It’s going to tell you where your body is in space.
2- Is your equilibrium, your inner ear.
3- Is your vision.
If you can’t see, you’ve already taken a third of your compensation techniques for balance away. So keeping a light on at night, making sure your eyeglasses are up to their prescription or at least even putting them on. So vision has a huge impact on balance.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You talked about how inactivity decreases your strength.
It’s been said that for every day you spend in the hospital bed, you lose 5 % of your strength, and that doesn’t even take into consideration any medical problems associated with that hospitalization. So, you can certainly come home from that in a severely weakened condition.
We talked about medications, and I think the most interesting one there is, sedating over the counter medications. That’s anything with the PM in it, and it’s basically benedryl, you reduce your fall risk by 66% if you stop or reduce taking those.
If someone has questions on how to avoid falls, how would they get in touch with you?
You can reach me at my office at 704–591–9287.
Be safe out there.
I’m Greg McIntyre from McIntyre Elder Law.
Call me if you have any questions:
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby