If the senior in your life falls and is able to return home, count your blessings, because a majority of people over age 65 who fall either never leave the hospital or are moved into assisted living facilities.
The bad news doesn’t stop there. Most senior fallers are statistically repeat fallers, and a subsequent injury, particularly if it’s a hip or other re-injury, is very difficult to overcome. Because of these physical challenges, many recovering seniors develop an intense fear of another fall. As a result, they reduce or eliminate their social interaction and physical activity. The consequential loneliness, depression, and physical decline often create a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse.
Given the risks involved, it’s important to help seniors recover from falls to the greatest extent possible, so that they may enjoy their lives and not live in fear.
Understand that Falls Happen
No matter how many precautions one takes, the risk of a serious fall is always there. There are so many potential causes that it is impossible to entirely prevent all of them. This understanding is significant, because seniors and caregivers need to know that the fall was probably no one’s fault. Or, perhaps there were a number of factors involved and it’s impossible to pin responsibility on any one of them.
So, there is no reason to be discouraged, but at the same time, there is no reason to be fatalistic. Falls are preventable, for the most part, which is why it is very important to move on to the next step.
Address Psychological Barriers
If coming to terms with the mental aspects of a fall is step one, overcoming these obstacles is step two. Unexpected falls that occur to otherwise fit seniors are the most crushing psychological blows. These individuals are most likely to get sucked into the aforementioned downward spiral because their veneer of safety has been completely ripped away.
Try rearranging the furniture in a way that helps a senior get around better. That’s especially a good idea if the person uses a rolling scooter or other mobility aid shortly after returning home from the hospital. Such devices are wonderful, but it’s important not to become too dependent on them.
More permanent, and also more subtle, home upgrades work even better. Things like installing toilet bars, taped-down rugs, and plenty of light give seniors more confidence as they move around the house. They’ll need that confidence in the next step.
This phase can usually begin even while the senior is still on the mobility scooter. There are a number of exercises and yoga classes specifically designed for folks with limited mobility. Once they can move around under their own power, these opportunities expand significantly. Encourage the senior to supplement these activities with things like walking the dog and popping in to see the neighbors.
Yoga and other fitness programs develop strength, improve balance, and improve the state of mind. Moreover, people get enhanced social interaction in these classes. That improves mood even more and encourages more fitness, completely reversing that downward spiral.
Visit the Doctor
Most fall victims have already seen their regular physicians by the time they get home. But if that hasn’t happened yet for whatever reason, make sure this interaction occurs. Ask the doctor to review the following:
Illness Check: Sometimes, the fall itself is not the only problem. Anemia, dehydration, heart problems, and a host of other conditions may cause weakness, and a doctor can either diagnose or rule out all of them.
Medication Review: Many people are not completely honest with their doctors about all the medication they take and how much they take (or don’t take). Since medicines often cause problems like dizziness in certain combinations, be sure the doctor knows everything.
Blood Screen: Low Vitamin D levels are common if the person spends a lot of time indoors, and this deficiency often causes bone weakness. Blood count and electrolyte levels are related to falls as well.
Also check balance/gait issues as well as vision, hearing, and other senses.
Recovering after a fall is a process, but there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel for those who persevere to the end.