“I do things mindfully and with care now.”
This is one of the ways in which 68 year-old Doris Huffmann’s daily life has changed since she’s returned home after surgery and rehabilitation to recover from a broken hip sustained in a fall.
If you are a senior who has suffered a fall, unfortunately, you are in good company. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 33% of seniors over age 65 fall each year, with many falls resulting in injuries that impair their ability to live independently. But whether or not an injury occurs, even a single fall can create the fear of falling, which in turn causes a decrease in activity and quality of life. Columbia University studies have found that the fear of falling among seniors impairs mobility, leading to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and even less mobility. This research states that, “The fear of falling is both the cause of the falls and a consequence of falls.” Fifty percent of seniors who have fallen fall again, in part, because of this fear.
Doris is fortunate to have been able to return to her home and independent lifestyle, because 40% of seniors admitted to a nursing home or rehabilitative facility following a fall injury do not return to independent living. Even so, coming home after recovering from a fall can be a mixed blessing. Returning to normal can be a slow process, hampered by feeling weaker, more unsteady and more vulnerable to another fall. Luckily, there are many products and precautions that can help safeguard homes and individuals from further falls, and help conquer the fear that can cause them.
Assessing Fall Risks at Home
Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, a leading producer of home medical and safety products, has compiled a home assessment checklist to help seniors find and eliminate many of the causes of home falls. Among the most important things to consider:
- Be sure the path from the bedroom to the bathroom is well lit.
- Make sure spills are cleaned up immediately.
- Make sure throw rugs/floor mats are secure.
- Make sure there are no cords laying across pathways
- Make it easy to walk around the furniture in your home.
- Be sure the floor is free of clutter.
Visits Drive’s complete home assessment checklist.
When Doris first returned home, she needed to ensure that she put adequate lighting in her bedroom. She had originally fallen over something left on the floor as she was going from her bedroom to her bathroom in the middle of the night. Doris attached a light & go mobility light to her bed for easily accessible, motion activated visibility. The light is easy to clamp and includes foam padding for a secure grip, and 3 bright, long-life LED’s. It runs on 2 standard AAA batteries which are included with it.
Doris’ physical therapist recommended that she use a mobility assistance device once she returned home. Because she intended to return to normal activity, she didn’t want anything large or cumbersome. Doris opted for a cane, and selected folding cane with a gel handle. The silicone gel glow grip handle and tip allows these sections of the cane to glow in the dark, providing additional visibility at night, and her light & go mobility light easily attaches to the cane as well.
As her hip was still healing from surgery, Doris found it more difficult to get into and out of her bed, chairs and sofa. A padded swivel seat with non-slip surfaces rotates the user so they are able to transfer from bed or seating with minimal physical effort.
In addition, a simple device like hand-held reacher helps eliminate bending and stretching, and gives Doris access to items on her closet shelf and kitchen cabinets without the instability or risk posed by climbing on a chair or stepstool.
Regaining strength and confidence
Implementing safety measures like those described above can help seniors who have fallen to feel more safe and confident about the external fall risks around them, but a few simple lifestyle changes can also go a long way toward increasing their strength, balance and confidence in all surroundings and situations.
“I used to rush around trying to do as many things as possible in as little time as I could,” says Doris. “But since my fall, I’ve really had to slow down, think about what I’m doing, and do one thing at a time.”
In addition to slowing down and adopting an attitude of attentiveness in her daily activities, Doris also started taking a restorative yoga class at her local senior center. Not only has it helped her develop her focus and mindfulness, it has also helped her physically recuperate from her injury and increase her strength and balance. Her posture and gait have improved as well as her confidence. By employing these products and precautions, Doris is taking steps to ensure that she is unlikely to fall again.