May 21

Elderly Risk Of Injury

The Number 1 Risk Of Injury Is Falling!

Approximately 3 million people suffer at least one domestic accident every year. Fall related injuries are at the top of the accidents list and the elderly population are the top candidates for fall related injuries.

Among those fall related injuries hip fractures and head trauma are frequent (personally I know of a case in which a person lost his life in the show, following a head trauma). 

Most serious injury in the older persons originate from multiple causes, and here we list some of them:

  • Low Physical Fitness. Seniors are less physically active. This failure to engage in even mild exercise on a regular basis results in reduced muscle strength, decreased bone mass, loss of balance, loss of coordination, and reduced flexibility.
  • Impaired Vision.  Eye diseases make it difficult to see obstacles indoors and outdoors. Vision problems can cause a fall related injuries even for a fit senior person. Another cause to vision problems is refusing to wear eyeglasses or any other vision equipment necessary.
  • Other risk factors  are multiple medications and their side effects. Side effects can be drowsiness, dizziness and low blood pressure, which may contribute to an accident. We should not forget that over-the-counter medications can have side effects too.
  • Chronic Diseases. May chronic diseases cause weakness in the hands and legs, poor grip strength, and balance disorders. Medical conditions increase the initial risk of falling and minimizes the ability to respond. Such conditions may also increase recovery time from dangerous situations, like tripping or slipping.
  • Surgical Procedures. Surgeries can leave an elderly or senior person weak, in pain, discomfort, and less mobile than usual and at an increased risk of injury.
  • Environmental Reasons. Most falls in the senior population occur in or around their homes. Contributing factors are poor lighting, clutter, carpets, and slippery floors. Safety equipment must be installed where ever possible to minimize those risks at home.
  • Lifestyle and behaviors. Engaging in dangerous types of activities without taking the necessary safety steps will increase risk factors of injury. For example, raiding a bicycle without wearing protective gear. Failing to modify behaviors in a way that will take in consideration new risks is a serious and contributing factor to fall injury in older persons.

Making the home environment where an elderly person lives safer is simple.
Here we will suggest ways to limit risk factors and steps to put into practice to  avoid the most frequent risks of falling. 

Proofing The Home Against Falling 

The Bathroom

Bathroom for seniors

Bathroom for seniors

As the years go by, you may need to go to the bathroom more and more often, even at night.

The bathroom represents an environment where one is at higher risk of falling, both because of the slipperiness of the floors which are often wet, and because of the limited space. Darkness, associated with poor vision, can also cause disorientation. In fact, over two-thirds of all bathroom accidents involve older people. Bathroom safety is a serious concern for an elderly person living alone and for those who care for the elderly.

Using the correct aids should improve safety and ease of use, both for the end user and for the people who assist him. Relatives, health care providers, nurses and social health workers are also active participants to take into consideration.

For example, the toilet must be suitable for a wheelchair user and to facilitate the getting up and sitting movement. The wash basins should be ergonomic with a concave front edge, which facilitates their use. People with reduced mobility will also need handrails and grab bars to be able to move around safely. It will be advisable to replace the traditional shower with a seated shower, or a conventional bathtub with one that has a door. Lets list those tips one by one:

Tips For Securing The Bathroom

Install grab bars near the toilet, tub and shower.

Grab bars are number 1 for fall prevention! they allow the elderly or the disabled to keep their balance while sitting on the toilet or getting in and out of the tub or shower. Having a grab rail allows one to maintain one's balance. Remember to install grab bars on the walls near the bathroom fixtures, in the shower, in the tub and wherever you need extra support.

Install a night light in bathrooms for the elderly.

Often, the older adults get disoriented in the dark. Placing a night light in the bathroom ensures they don't bump into the sink, accidentally fall into the tub, or slip from the toilet onto the floor. Use a gentle LED night light that illuminates the bathroom without blinding the user as they transition from dark to light. Consider placing night lights in the hallway as well.

Install emergency call buttons in the bathroom.

Emergency call buttons can be a real lifesaver in case of a serious injury . This type of bathroom safety equipment can also help eliminate accidents, as people are more likely to push a button or pull a cord for assistance than to ask for help before going to the bathroom.

Remove any rugs or bathmats that do not have a non-slip backing.

Normal rugs can slip on tile, linoleum and wood floors. Using non-slip rugs and mats prevent falls,and the risk factors of accidental fall injury is greatly reduced. If you find a bath mat or rug that you particularly like that comes without a non-slip backing, invest in non-slip tape and apply it under the rug. If you have particularly smooth floors, consider other bathroom flooring solutions which are suitable.

Toilet lifts and toilet aids

Install frames, toilet safety handles, high seats, or high toilets to prevent accidents from occurring when the older adults get on and off the toilet. Raised seats are useful because they allow you to sit without excessively lowering your body, thereby reducing difficulty in getting back up. The armrests and handles of the toilet lifters or frames for the toilets give balance and provide a support to push on.

bathroom top view

Electrical appliances

Keep all electrical appliances out of the bathroom. If electric razors or hairdryers are needed, find a space in the bedroom if possible. Space heaters are not safe in an environment such as the bathroom, they are an increased risk for the elderly.

Aids for the bath and shower.

Seats and grab bars for the bath enable the elderly to get into and out of the tub without the risk of slipping and falling. Consider shower chairs and tub transfer benches with adjustable legs. The bench or safety stool for the bathroom can then be raised or lowered depending on the height of the tub.

Use non-slip accessories.

Place the anti-slip products on the floor and in the tub or shower. In addition to non-slip bath mats and non-slip rugs, place non-slip decals or plastic mats in the bathtub and shower. Anyone can slip and fall in a smooth tub or shower, regardless of age. In addition to placing non-slip bath mats in front of the tub, place them in front of the toilet and in front of the sink to provide extra grip.

Set the water heater to a temperature between 40 and 50 degrees or lower.

Most burns and accidents occur when the water heater temperature is set too high. By lowering the temperature, you save both the elderly and the youngest in your household from a bad burn.

Throw away all old medications and prescriptions.

In fact, it would be best not to store any drugs in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Heat and steam can affect the storage of medicines. Old prescriptions and medications could also be used accidentally.

Try applying these bathroom remodeling tips for seniors, for an accessible bathroom, and to make sure that an older person you love can spend more quality time in their own home. We hope they will be useful to you. 

The Bedroom

  • Watch out for the state of the carpets. Make sure that the carpets don't have holes and are attached properly to the floors. 
  • Use Bed Rails. They offer support when elderly walk around the room, and provide support when they get out and into the bed. Bed rails prevent falls from bed as older adults turn in their sleep.
  • Use over bed tables. These ensure a good posture when sitting up in bed because they are at a comfortable height.  
  • Make sure the senior person uses a stepping stool during any activity in which he or she can lose their balance. Those which have a handle will help with balance problems. 

Floors

Floors can pose a risk if they have an uneven, too smooth or shiny surface, if they are wet or dirty or covered with wax or worn with wear. Watch out for the carpets too! good ways for injury prevention are:

  • Keep floors dry and non-slippery; avoid polishing floors with wax.
  • Wear suitable shoes with non-slip soles and if possible without laces.
  • Remove objects from the floor and reduce clutter.
  • Avoid unevenness.
  • Remove carpets if they are too thin, have fringes or holes or if they slip on the floor.
  • Remove any electrical wires from the floor.
  • Use the right shoes for balance problems. The elderly targeted footwear are made with enhanced attributes such as great tractionlight, and softer soles, and to fit even when your feet swell.

Corridors

Corridors perform a connecting function between the various rooms of the house; the corridor space must be suitable and allow for easy movement. Even an obstacle, a pathological situation, or a fever can break the daily balance, making you more fragile and sensitive to the unexpected.

  • Do not make paths in the dark, rather ensure good lighting of the premises, perhaps with night lights.
  • Keep corridors clear of obstructions.
  • Avoid electrical wires that could trip you up.
  • If necessary, use a support for cane, crutch etc.

Carpets

Carpets, especially those thin ones placed on a shiny floor, tend to lift, move or roll up easily, increasing the risk factors of someone tripping over them. Fringes can also cause a fall.

  • Do not use rugs with fringes or holes, or those that can which fold or roll up easily.
  • Reinforce the corners of the rugs by applying fabric on the back or a non-slip rubber net.

Fixed Stairs 

Stairs represent a risk when they are excessively steep, slippery, wobbly or deteriorated. Or if they are too high or too narrow or of different levels. If stairs are dark or do not have adequate protection this could also pose a problem, injury prevention can achieved by taking the following steps:

  • Keep the stairs well lit, making sure to place the light switches, clearly visible, both at the beginning and at the end of the ramp.
  • Mount a handrail or railing along the staircase.
  • Glue non-slip strips on the steps.
  • Keep the stairs clear of any objects that may interfere with your passage.
  • Eliminate the mats or rails on the stairs.
  • If necessary, have a stairlift installed (this is a freight elevator that allows you to move the chair from one floor to another).

Ladder

A poorly maintained ladder can certainly cause an accident, but many accidents can be due to carelessness or misuse.

  • Do not climb stairs or stools when you are alone indoors.
  • Do not climb a ladder if you suffer from dizziness, muscle or bone pain, are tired or have vision problems, or if you have taken drugs or alcohol.
  • Do not go up with slippers or high-heeled shoes, sandals and unsuitable clothing (dressing gowns, laces and belts that can get caught or get under your shoes).
  • When climbing, do not carry heavy materials and equipment at the same time: you may have balance problems or difficulties in supporting yourself on the ladder posts.
  • Pay attention to where you position the staircase: doors or windows that are not perfectly blocked, spaces near the void (balconies, landings, etc.), power lines.
  • Never place the ladder on an inclined surface.