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How you can help elderly loved ones prevent falls-related injuries

Taking Care, one of the leading personal alarm providers in the UK, share some tips on reducing falls among the older population. 

Our elderly loved ones are much more likely to fall and the consequences are more serious than for younger people. According to a survey carried out by Age UK, 1 in 3 older adults cite falls as one of their major concerns. Another survey carried out by the NHS suggests that around a third of people above 65 years of age, and half of people over the age of 80, have at least one fall a year.

The shocking statistics do not stop there and the risk is increasing; data from the Office for National Statistics shows the rise in the number of deaths after suffering a fall among men over 85 years of age was 177% and among women was 72%, between 2008 and 2016.

For family members, the consequences of older loved ones falling are also a major concern. That’s why leading personal alarm provider Taking Care has published a free Falls Prevention Guide to help address these worries and provide practical advice to reduce the risk of falls around the home, some of which we have shared here. 

Calculate the risk of a fall

Complete Taking Care’s two minute online assessment to find out your or your loved one’s falls risk score and ways to remain safe and independent with our Falls Prevention Guide. The Taking Care Falls Prevention Guide offers practical advice with five key recommendations to reduce the risk of falls at home. 

Steps to reduce the risk of falls

Now that you have more information on your loved one’s risk of falling you can take steps to reduce the risk. The good news is simple lifestyle changes, adaptations around the home and strength and balance exercises can help to reduce the risk of falling. Your loved ones can also consult their GP for advice as healthcare professionals will understand the risk of injury from falls. We’ve summarised some of the detailed advice you can find for free in Taking Care’s Falls Prevention Guide.

1. Declutter

Removing clutter and obstructions to keep hallways, rooms and paths free from trip hazards will reduce the likelihood of accidents occurring. Make sure there are no loose wires or extension cables as these are easy to catch your footing on. Use cable clips or cable tidies to hide and conceal power leads. Obstructions on stairs can be particularly risky. If your loved ones do not feel confident walking up and down the stairs unaided then a stairlift is a solution that promotes independence and may be simpler to install than you expect.

2. Better lighting

Eyesight deteriorates with age, and it may become more difficult to see clearly in low light. Fit a night light near the bed to ensure that if they wake up in the night, they can see where they are going. Installing motion-activated lights throughout the house or near the stairs can also be a handy solution. It is always a good idea to store torches in easy to locate places in the home for use in the event of a power cut.

3. Fit non-slip mats

When fall-proofing your loved one’s house, you should check floor surfaces, especially in the bathroom where slips are common. According to studies, plenty of falls happen while showering or washing, and the chances of these falls causing an injury are twice as likely as compared to falls in other rooms. Check for fraying carpets and unsecured rugs; curled edges can lead to a trip

4. Installing grab bars and handrails

It is helpful to install grab bars and handrails near the bath, shower area and the toilet so your loved one can more easily get up and have something to hold onto if they are unsteady on their feet. Whilst grab bars and handrails are a relatively low-cost solution, walk-in baths, whilst more expensive, can help maintain independence and dignity.

5. Improve strength and balance

Muscle weakness and balance problems are also one of the major causes of falls. Your loved ones can regularly engage in strength and balance exercises to improve frailty. Additionally, studies show that taking part in regular Tai Chi lessons can reduce the risk of falls. Simple activities like walking and dancing can also help. Even light activity that can be done at home has benefits and Age Space has advice on gentle sitting exercises that can be done at home and will help improve your mobility and prevent falls.

How to get up after a fall

According to the NHS, it is important to maintain calm after you have fallen. Even if there is no injury, it is not recommended that older adults get up too quickly in case they are dazed or injured and may fall again. To safely stand, you can roll onto the hands and knees and find a steady support like a bed or a chair. With proper support, you should get up slowly, sit and rest for a while before resuming your daily routine.

In case of an injury or when you cannot stand unaided, you can try to attract attention by shouting out for help or calling friends or family from a mobile. However, they may not always be able to respond, or you may not be able to reach a telephone. With a monitored personal alarm that is worn around the neck or wrist, help is available 24-hours a day from a specialist Emergency Resolution Team who can quickly contact family, friends or the emergency services. Unlike a mobile phone, there are no phone numbers to remember or fiddly buttons to press. Some personal alarms will even automatically detect falls and make an alarm call without a button needing to be pressed.

How Joan's family adapted her home after a fall

After a nasty fall in 2016, Joan had to spend two months in hospital recuperating. The hospital was hesitant to discharge her until she could be comfortable and safe at home. Her son Dion explains how they met the hospital’s advice:

“We re-organised her house – installing a downstairs toilet, putting in a stair lift, and arranging for care support to visit her over the first few weeks back at home. Mum’s happy to wear her alarm pendant all the time – she loves it – and is 100% comfortable with what it’s there for. Ultimately, it’s allowing her to live in a home she loves – she’s lived there since I was born – and keep the freedom and independence she so values.”

After her husband passed away 20 years ago, Joan, an ex-nurse lived alone and valued her independence. Despite being in her 80s, she always kept active and even helped her neighbours with shopping, as they are slightly older than her. Her family feels that Taking Care’s personal alarm has allowed her to live her life independently with the reassurance that help is just a click away. It also gives them peace of mind as she can receive help as quickly as possible from Taking Care’s 24/7 Emergency Response Team.

Who are Taking Care?

Taking Care are Which?’s approved personal alarm service, helping over 170,000 people feel safer living independent lives. 

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