Seniors' in-home accidents are often balance-related

Date Published: 
November 4, 2011

Many people don’t think they’re that at risk of falling simply because they have never fallen, or because they do not feel imbalanced. Unfortunately, by the time you can tell you may have a problem, the problem has already become severe.

There are very simple, non-invasive tests that your doctor can use to assess your fall risk. A “Get Up and Go” test takes about 20 seconds. You’ll be observed as you rise from a straight back chair, walk 10 feet and return to the chair. If you already use a cane or walker, the results are assessed the same.

Other tests involve performing basic tasks used to rate your ability to maintain balance while performing normal activities of daily living at home.

Many people who believe they’ll easily pass these tests find that they’re at greater risk than they thought and can then take preventative measures, such as removing common hazards throughout the home or installing grab bars in the bathroom.

As we age, we lose bone density and muscle tone, and we may be taking medications that affect blood pressure – all common contributors to injury producing accidents. It’s important to discuss with your doctor how these factors affect you, because fall statistics are alarming:

• More than one in three people 65 or older fall each year, and the risk of falling rises proportionally with age.

• Falls are the No. 1 cause of fractures, hospital admissions for trauma and accidental-injury deaths.

• Two-thirds of those who experience a fall will fall again within six months.

• Often, fall-related fractures are at the arm, hand, ankle, spine, pelvis or hip – any of which may cause a loss of independence for a long period of time.

Depending on the injury, most hospitals and rehabilitation facilities will not discharge a patient unless they can be assured that there is continued care coverage at home. Since falls are unexpected, families are usually not prepared to provide the total amount of time needed to care for their loved one.

Annalise Forman, director of Visiting Angels, a home-care company that provides experienced caregivers, said, “To a person recovering from an injury, their biggest concerns are about becoming a burden to family and losing their independence. Visiting Angels addresses both of these fears. We often meet with a care recipient and her family while she is still recovering in a facility, so that when she is ready to return home, there will be a friendly, familiar face ready to help.”

“Most people develop a fear of falling that increases with age,” added Forman, “For those with a previous fall history, this fear can become debilitating, and many will avoid very basic activities of daily living and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, which can rapidly lead to more serious health problems.”

From a few hours a week, to 24/7 care, Visiting Angels can help a person regain their independence and enjoy normal activities. They offer help with personal hygiene, meal preparation, light housekeeping, shopping, errands and appointments, and companionship.

“Often, just a few hours a day can make the difference between living safely at home, or making it necessary to move to an assisted living facility,” said Forman.

“Many of our clients who began to use our services because of an injury retain our services long after their recovery. They find that just a little extra help makes a huge difference in their ability to remain independent and enjoy a better quality of life.”

Speak with your doctor about your balance and risk of falling.

For more information about Visiting Angels home-care services, contact Annalise Forman at (302) 329-9475.