You visit your newest home care client. You arrive at the home to find that they are unsteady on their feet, live alone, own three tiny dogs, and have narrow pathways to maneuver around. You review the care plan and see that home safety is one of your tasks during visits. You start wondering how to identify the most significant risks and what you can do about them.
We’ve rounded up statistics about falls in the home and some of the best fall prevention tips for home care CNAs.
Falls at Home by the Numbers
The scene above is not far away from reality for many seniors living at home. More than 4.5 million people received care at home in 2015. And millions over the age of 65 fall at home each year. Yet, less than half of all falls are reported to a doctor.
Once a person experiences one fall, they are twice as likely to fall again. Falls at home can cause superficial injuries like bumps and bruises. However, one in every five falls will cause things like broken bones or a head injury.
What Increases Fall Risk?
Not every senior living at home is at risk of falling. However, many older adults have one or more conditions that put them at a significantly higher risk of falls. Here are just a few that put them at a higher risk:
- Unsteady on their feet when walking or standing
- Using prescription or over-the-counter medications that cause dizziness
- Poor vision
- Pain or weakness in their lower body from aging, disease, or injuries
- Chronic conditions like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis
Fall Prevention Tips
The good news about falls at home is that most can be prevented. This is especially true when seniors have in-home caregivers looking for easy ways to keep them safe. Here are a few tips you can implement quickly to increase home safety.
Clean Up Clutter
Cleaning and reorganizing is a task that will be easier in some homes than in others. Your client might meet you with significant opposition if you start suggesting throwing away or donating some of their possessions. So be sure to tread lightly and begin by offering that you help tidy up specific areas in the home, like hallways, stairways, and the bathroom. Then, let them know you aren’t throwing anything away, and they are in total control of the relocation of items.
Remove Trip Hazards
Many seniors use items that can create unsafe situations. Others might live in homes that are in poor repair and have areas that should be avoided when possible. Look in every room for trip hazards such as:
- Throw rugs
- Extension cords or wires across walkways
- Loose carpet or other floorings
- Uneven or loose steps
- Unstable furniture
Once you have a list of the hazards, create a plan of how you might help them fix the issue or develop pathways that keep them away from areas that pose a risk. For example, develop strategies with the client regarding removing throw rugs, relocating cords or wires, or placing pets in another room during care.
If their home needs repair or modification, talk to your supervisor. The nurse on the case might make a referral to therapy for an assessment or social work if the client is on a strict budget. Utilizing all services the home care agency offers provides a holistic approach to care.
Let the Light Shine In
As people age, their vision becomes darker, making it very challenging to focus in dimly lit rooms. Prioritize increasing lighting in areas of the home that pose the most risk of falls, such as dark hallways, stairways, and the bathroom. Suggest they purchase and install brighter light bulbs, motion censored lights, or nightlights. You can also open curtains and blinds to let in natural light during the day.
Check Out Their Footwear
Because many seniors don’t leave the comfort of their homes often, they get used to wearing socks or slippers. However, both types of footwear can put them at a higher risk of falls.
Look in their closet and identify closed-toed, non-skid shoes that are easy to put on and off. Suggest they wear these shoes at home. If they aren’t open to wearing shoes in the house, bring a pair of non-skid socks from the home care office. The extra grip is usually enough to keep them from falling on slippery surfaces like those found in the bathroom or kitchen.
Watch How They Walk
If your client is unsteady on their feet or walks bent over, making it impossible for them to see ahead, talk to the nurse immediately. Both of these observations might be an indication that they need a therapy consult. A physical or occupational therapist can assess the client and their home for unsafe situations and create a plan. The plan might include home modifications, increased nurse aide hours, or a home exercise program to build strength.
Relocate Important Items
You may find your client’s essential items, like medications, clothes, or food, throughout the home. This lack of organization can cause them to do much more walking than necessary, making them tired and putting them at a higher fall risk.
Identify essential items that can be relocated to one area. Here are a few tips that might help:
- Suggest moving all medications to one spot
- Place all toiletries in the bathroom
- Put extra items, like toilet paper, in an easy-to-reach area to minimize trips
- Store their phone in a pocket or a bag attached to their walker or wheelchair
- Place commonly used items at waist height to reduce bending
Encourage Slow Movements
Seniors can lack impulse control, causing them to move too quickly from sitting to standing or vice versa. Quick movements can cause them to trip over their own feet or cause falls related to a drop in their blood pressure.
Encourage them to pause anytime they go from one position to another. Have the client sit on the edge of the seat and count to three before standing. Once they stand, prompt them to count to three again before walking. This simple tip can provide tons of safety.
Fall Prevention is Injury Prevention
Preventing falls keeps your clients safe at home. When seniors are safe at home, they are out of the hospital, happier, and healthier. And reducing or eliminating falls and trips to the hospitals mean you’re doing your job well.