The Baby Boomer generation is living longer than previous generations and according to the latest data released from the Administration on Aging, nearly 30% of older adults live alone. While many elders take pride in their continued independence, they may be more prone to suffering injuries while living alone. Elders are at a greater risk of being injured in an accident in the home involving a kitchen fire, accidental poisoning, slip and trips, and being struck by fallen objects that are out of reach.
Out of all of the accidents that occur in the home, falls are the most common and have some of the most long lasting effects.
Falls in the Home
Each year, 1 in 3 elderly individuals, 65 years or older, fall and 2.5 million older individuals are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Falls account for 95% of all hip fractures and are the common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in older adults. Although many falls do not result in an injury, 1 out of 5 falls results in a serious injury, such as a fracture or TBI. As a result to falling in the home and being injured, many elders may be unable to call for help right away, fail to report their accident, or delay treatment. Additionally, once an elderly individual has fallen in his or her home, they may become more fearful of falling again (subsequent falls are common) and they may be afraid to go out and about.
Reasons Behind Falls
A fall in the home can happen for any number of reasons, some common risk factors include lower body weakness, Vitamin D deficiency, and the use of medications. Additionally, as an individual ages, it’s natural for the body to become weaker and issues with vision,mobility and balance, which can also lead to falls. Some other contributing factors leading to falls in the home include poor footwear, uneven floors or steps, tripping hazards like rugs or clutter, and ice or uneven pavement on sidewalks, stairs, or driveways outside of the home.
Reducing and Preventing Falls
When an elderly individual falls in his or her home, his or her independence may come to an end, requiring in home help or even moving to a nursing home facility. While a fall can happen when an individual is being careful, prevention can reduce the chances of falling. Here are some ways to decrease fall prevention in the home so elders can extend their independent living:
- Get a Checkup: Since issues like poor vision, medications, and even a Vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of falls, it’s a good idea to have a check up and talk with your doctor about any medications you take to see if they can affect balance or increase dizziness.
- Stay in Shape: Getting exercise on a regular basis can help to keep your body more mobile and stronger. Consider taking a gentle yoga class to work on your balance and lower body strength.
- Improvements in the Home: Don’t wait until you fall to fall proof your home. Take a look at the lighting. Is it too low? Install handrails, remove tripping hazards, fix areas that are likely to increase your risk of falling.
- Ask for Help: Just because you live alone, it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything by yourself. Do you struggle with yard work, house maintenance, or shoveling snow? Ask someone to give you a hand.