So your mom fell. Now what?
Life changes the first time a parent falls. One day, your active, vibrant mom wakes up, gets out of bed, and goes on with her daily routine. The next, she wakes up, gets out of bed, and trips on the curled corner of a rug, misses a step on a slightly raised entryway, slips on a slick tile, or stumbles on an uneven sidewalk.
Now, she’s one of the 25 percent of seniors who fall each year and you’re one of the adult children who will never forget picking up the phone to hear your brother or your dad utter those dreaded words: “Mom had a fall.”
It’s scary dealing with a parent’s first serious fall, especially because older adults who have fallen are at higher risk for a future fall.
The good news is that many falls can be prevented. One of the best ways to keep your loved one safe and out of the emergency room is to move to an assisted living community that has fall prevention and reduction programs in place as well as services designed to enhance the overall health and well-being of residents.
Here’s a closer look at how moving to assisted living can help prevent falls.
A Culture of Safety
One of the most common reasons an older adult falls is environmental hazards in or around their home, such as poor lighting, clutter, loose throw rugs, slick floors, risky footwear, or the improper use of a walker, cane, or other assistive device.
Assisted living communities are designed with fall prevention in mind. Not only does the assisted living care team undergo intensive fall prevention and reduction training, but they also conduct fall risk evaluations for each resident, assessing their fall history, balance, gait, medical history, and assistive devices.
By identifying high-risk residents, educating residents on the correct use of assistive devices, and modifying the home with safety equipment, such as barrier-free showers, grab bars, and handrails, assisted living communities create a culture of safety from the time of move-in.
Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
Another common reason seniors fall is due to their lifestyle and behaviors. For example, does your mom have to walk up and down stairs or carry a heavy basket every time she does the week’s laundry? Does your dad refuse to wear secure, non-skid footwear even though he slipped and nearly fell on the entryway tiles while carrying in groceries?
In assisted living communities, staff and care partners are on-hand to assist with activities of daily living, such as meal preparation and eating, toileting, bathing, putting on clothes, grooming, and more. This caregiver support empowers residents to get around and take care of themselves while also lowering their risk of falls.
If your parent has become less active as they’ve gotten older, they’re not alone. But failure to engage in even mild exercise on a regular basis results in reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, loss of balance and coordination, and reduced flexibility — all making it easier to fall. It’s amazing what a short daily walk to the dining hall can do for a parent’s strength and mobility!
Assisted living communities offer wellness programs to help residents stay active and engaged as they age. Exercise classes offered range from yoga and tai chi to TheraBand exercises and sit-er-cise. Each class is designed with fall prevention in mind, finding ways to improve mobility, balance, strength, and flexibility. Some communities even teach residents how to fall “safely” or safely get-up after experiencing a fall without a major injury.
Many older adults are taking medications that increase fall risk. Sedatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids, and some cardiovascular drugs are the most common culprits, with side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and low blood pressure all contributing to an increased risk of falling.
Medication management is one of the most common reasons older adults pursue living in assisted living communities, where trained professionals keep residents safely on track with their medication. Team members oversee every detail, from reordering medications to reminding and administering dosages.
Eating healthy helps decrease your risk of falls by supporting healthy muscle and bone strength. But many seniors aren’t eating a balanced diet. They’re skipping meals and eating convenience foods.
Assisted living communities offer nutritious meals and snack options every day. By incorporating good sources of Vitamin D and calcium into the menu — such as salmon, egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains — assisted living communities can lower residents’ risk for falls and more.
Older people rarely fall for only one reason. Usually, there are several factors that contribute to a fall or to a person’s fall risk.
That’s why moving to assisted living can help prevent falls: Although there is no guarantee that your loved one won’t fall in an assisted living community, there are so many preventative measures in place, from medication management and exercise programs to personal care assistance and mobility devices.
To learn more about how assisted living can help your loved one live a safe and healthy life, download our eBook What Is Assisted Living Really Like?