VERSAILLES — During Falls Prevention Week, Versailles Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, the 112-bed skilled nursing facility, recommends that senior citizens and their loved ones conduct a quick check of their risks for falls – something that can help prevent hospitalization for broken bones, head injuries, and more.
Falls Prevention Awareness Week is a national health campaign observed yearly at the start of fall. It is designed to increase awareness about falls, health, and injury prevention, and occurs during September’s Healthy Aging Month.
“Falls that happen around the house or in everyday activities can have significant consequences for our loved ones,” said Carol Lyons, administrator of Versailles Rehab and Healthcare Center. “By talking with your family members who might be susceptible to falls, plus assessing their fall risk with their healthcare provider, you could help prevent serious injuries that may affect their quality of life.”
To help family members protect their loved ones, Versailles Rehab cites several steps the National Council on Aging recommends to reduce the risk of falls:
• Ask older loved ones if they’re concerned about falling. If they are, suggest that they discuss it with their healthcare provider who can assess their risk and suggest treatments, programs, or services that could help.
• Discuss their current health conditions and find out if they are having trouble remembering to take their medications, experiencing side effects, or feel it’s more difficult for them to do things they used to do easily. Encourage them to speak openly with their healthcare provider about these concerns to get assistance.
• Ask about their last eye checkups. If they wear glasses, make sure they have a current prescription and are using their glasses when they should. Tint-changing lenses can be hazardous when going from bright sun to indoors, so consider changing glasses upon entry or stop until the lenses adjust. Also, bifocals can be problematic on stairs, so it’s important to be cautious.
• Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair. A physical therapist can help older loved ones improve their balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker, or adjust the fits of the ones they’re using as poorly sized aids can increase the risk of falling.
• Medications can lead to balance issues and dizziness. Beware of non-prescription drugs that contain sleep aids — including painkillers with “PM” in their names. If older loved ones are having sleeping problems, encourage them to ask their doctor or pharmacist about safer alternatives. If they’re challenged by keeping track of medicines or feel side effects, encourage them to tell their doctor and pharmacist. A spreadsheet can also help keep track of medications and schedules, and a timed medication dispenser can remind them to take their medicine.
• Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home, or ask an occupational therapist to do so. Several areas to focus on include lighting (especially at the top and bottom of stairs, and ensuring lighting is readily available when getting up in the middle of the night), stairs having two secure rails, and grab bars installed in the tub/shower and near the toilet, plus consider a shower chair and hand-held shower.