Home care: Falls Prevention in the Elderly

23Jul10

One of the most common concerns about the elderly at home relates to patients who have fallen.

Family members may not realize there can still be an injury even if the skin is not broken or bruised. These injuries can cause irreversible damage if not treated, which is why in most cases nurses may urge you to seek emergency care or contact the primary care provider based on your loved one’s clinical history. Falls must be taken seriously however minimal the injury may appear on the surface.

For example, patients who hit their head while also taking blood thinners, such as (warfarin) Coumadin, lovenox, fragmin or anti-platelet medications like Ticlid, Plavix, agrenox are at increased risk for bleeding. Or, a diabetic client who reports he has fallen due to new numbness or tingling may indicate nerve damage, or neuropathy. In this case, the cause of the fall can also indicate a new underlying problem that must be evaluated by a health care professional.

It may just be an isolated incident or it could signify a greater problem, but a home care nurse practitioner can assist you to determine the appropriate response.

Of course, the best scenario is to not have falls happen at all! Fewer falls equal fewer injuries which equal fewer complications in the future. Many actions can be taken by patients and caregivers to decrease the risk for falls in the home.

  • Remove clutter
  • Back light the rooms and place night lights in the bathrooms and hallways.
  • Add non slip matting to area rugs
  • Consider having grab bars installed in the shower and above the towel rack. (Do not use the towel rack as a grab bar).
  • Consider slippers with rubber soles and backing. An extra long shoe horn can ease putting on the safe foot ware.
  • Keep walkers and canes on multiple levels and consider going upstairs side stepping while holding on to the rail.
  • Make sure the walk ways are wide enough to accommodate the width of the walker

For a comprehensive safety home inspection that is tailored to your physical needs and abilities consult a primary care nurse practitioner that can make house calls. This way you can have your physical exam in your home, and the environment can be assessed at the same time. If this is not available in your area ask your primary care provider or doctor for a prescription for a home safety evaluation and occupational therapy/ physical therapy consultation.

Raymond Zakhari, NP



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