Falls at Home: Caring for Elderly Parents
As we age, we can find that we are far more likely to fall and to suffer more serious injuries when we do. In this article, we go through some of the main causes of falls for the elderly, as well how a carer can help them live a safe and happy life.
When we’re toddlers, we tend to fall over a lot, as we learn about balance and organising our bodies to stay upright. In middle age, we suffer few falls and those that do occur tend to be the result of tripping, slipping or suffering from an illness.
As we age, we can find that we are far more likely to fall and to suffer more serious injuries when we do.
Why falls occur in elderly people
There are many reasons why so many elderly people experience falls, aside from the obvious hazards of slipping and tripping. As the body ages, the ability to balance reduces, along with the ability to react fast enough to avoid the fall. Elderly people naturally become susceptible to physiological decline, meaning that their vision, spatial awareness and ability to process messages passed from the inner ear to the brain, become compromised.
Another natural feature of old age is the loss of muscle strength and a tendency to have erratic blood pressure when standing up, creating temporary dizziness which affects balance. Add in typical problems related to ageing, such as osteoarthritis, increased infections and heart problems, and it is easy to see why more than 40 percent of people over the age of 80 suffer at least one fall each year.
Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can also exacerbate the problem, along with a range of drugs commonly prescribed to older people to combat health conditions. The more risk factors that an older person has, the more likely they are to suffer a debilitating and distressing fall.
Common effects of falling
Unlike young people who can get up and carry on as normal following a fall, older people can sustain serious injuries due to brittle, ageing bones and poorer muscle tone. The experience is disorientating, frightening and painful for an elderly person, who could suffer head injuries, soft tissue damage and fractures, particularly to the hip, pelvis, ribs, wrists and back.
An older person who lives alone may find themselves unable to get up once they have fallen, which brings further problems including the risk of hypothermia, pressure sores, kidney damage and muscle breakdown. They may miss taking essential medication, which compromises their health even further.
Even if there is someone present who can help an elderly parent following a fall, they are likely to live in fear of it happening again. The natural tendency is to avoid any form of exercise to limit the chances of another fall, which causes further physical decline. If your parent resists leaving their home, they could end up feeling isolated and depressed as a result.
Dulcie’s care story
Duclie is one of our longest serving customers. In this video her and her family talk through their decision to arrange care in the home rather than the care home.
How to support an elderly relative following a fall
The first thing to do is to get your loved one thoroughly checked over by a doctor, to establish whether there was an undetected reason for the fall.
Next, you need to assess the home environment to make it as safe as possible. Remove any potential trip hazards, and add safety rails and grab handles in bathrooms. A stairlift is a good option, to avoid the risk of falling when going up or downstairs.
This is a good time to discuss whether specialist care at home might be a suitable option for your loved one. In-home care options can range from a couple of hours’ assistance once or twice a week, through to 24/7 care from a dedicated live-in carer.
Local authorities will give a free assessment to anyone who requests it and may be able to provide some financial support for elderly care in the home. You can use any support you do get to pay for home care either by requesting a direct payment, putting you in control of your care options, or by accepting one of the options your local council provides you with.
The great benefit of private live-in care is that your loved one can remain in their own home, which is very important for a generation accustomed to independent living. A live-in caregiver becomes a companion and friend as well as a vital helper and provides peace of mind for the whole family that there is someone on hand, day and night.
The familiarity of continuing to live in a much-loved home can be reassuring to an elderly person, who is already disturbed and frightened by the effects of falling. With the help and encouragement of a one-to-one caregiver, they may be persuaded to take gentle walks and participate in social events, which will keep the mind active and the body mobile.
Many private live-in carers have specialist training in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, providing you with additional reassurance if your loved one suffers from this kind of condition. What’s more, many are also particularly well-versed in the circumstances where someone needs home care after a hospital discharge.
Although a fall can be a terrifying experience for an elderly person, it is important to encourage them to continue with their life as though the fall had never happened. Continuing to live in their own home can be particularly helpful in these circumstances, as it brings a degree of normality back to the person’s life, allowing them to remain independent, something that is crucial for their mental health.
Preventing Falls: How to Care for Ageing Parents
With the majority of people wanting to live at home for as long as possible, the best way to care for your ageing parents is to ensure that their home is as safe as possible, with the aim of preventing any falls from occurring. Falls can also happen outside the home, especially in winter, so it is important to consider all the areas that you can have some positive influence over.
Elderly Care at Home: The Questions You Need to Ask
Discovering that an elderly relative needs assistance in their day-to-day living arrangements can be a difficult time for families. With so many of us working to earn a living, dropping everything to arrange for care isn’t straightforward. It’s all too easy to feel guilty that you simply can’t take on the role of caregiver yourself, even when it’s completely impractical to do so.
Elderly Care at Home: What Are My Options?
As our loved ones become older, and start to experience difficulties in managing on their own, we have to consider the options for their future wellbeing. Care homes have been subject to some very bad press in the past, and many elderly people live in dread of being taken to live in unfamiliar surroundings with people they don’t know. We want the absolute best for our older relatives, so it’s important to consider all the options.
Keeping Seniors Active: How to Care for Ageing Parents
As people age, it’s inevitable that they begin to slow down, but this shouldn’t mean they cease to be active. Keeping fit and healthy in old age is important, for both physical health and emotional wellbeing, and finding ways to keep your loved ones active is a positive step in caring for them. Staying active can help preserve a sense of independence too, as well as helping to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression or dementia - all conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.