Thursday, January 10, 2013

Elderly and Falls

I’m actually on the plane right now writing this.  I'm on my way to see my grandmother in Houston.  She is turning 96 years old this weekend!

Part of the reason for my visit is to spend time with her and celebrate her birthday, but the other part is to be there when the home health agency sends a nurse to evaluate her for home physical therapy.  My grandmother has had three falls in the past year and fortunately did not break a hip.   Falls in the elderly are very common and more times than not result in hip fractures which then leads to a fast decline in health.  The rate of deaths associated with hip fractures and falls in the elderly is extremely high.  Therefore, it is very important to try to prevent falls.
Here are a few things that can help prevent falls in the elderly:
  • Routine physician visit to screen for things that can affect balance such as:  
    • vision screening
    • hearing screening
    • going over medication list for interactions and medicines that impair mental function
    • taking vitamin D may help with prevention of fractures
  •  Maintenance of strength, agility, and balance
    • daily exercise is key
    • sometimes physical therapy is needed
  •  Making the home environment more safe:
    • remove rugs and other items that can trip patient – often home agencies can send nurse to evaluate the home and make suggestion
    • avoidance of stairs – best if can be on one level instead of having to go up and down stairs often throughout the day
    • adequately light walkways
  •  Using assistant devices
    • install hand rails
    • raise toilet seats with arm rests
    • grab bars for showers and tubs
    • plastic seat for shower and handheld shower head for washing
    • use of walkers and canes