November 30, 2017

Preventing Falls: The Importance of Staying Upright

By Julie Farmer, LCSW
Alternatives for the Older Adult
Quality Assurances

The risk of injury due to falls and, unfortunately, even dying from a fall increases with age.  Each year, millions of individuals over the age of 65 are treated in emergency departments because of falls.  In 2014, 841 Illinois residents over the age of 65 died from falls and over 106,600 fall injuries were treated at hospitals and emergency departments.  (Illinois Department of Public Health). As a result, the Illinois Department on Aging is focusing their efforts on identifying individuals who are at increased risk of falls and finding ways to reduce these risks. Falling once doubles the chance of falling again.

Independence in the way we live our daily life is important to all of us.  Falls create a threat to our ability to live independently and there are many things one can do to identify safety risks and prevent falls.

Care Coordinators from Alternatives provide comprehensive evaluations of individuals (age 60+) who may be struggling to complete tasks around their home due to muscle weakness, health conditions, or unsteadiness due to medications, etc.  As well, those who are caring for an individual age 60+ may be looking for ways to help keep their family member a bit safer in their home.  It’s helpful to take a tour of the individual’s home and ask:

  • Has the individual fallen in the past year?  Were they hurt?
  • Does the individual worry about falling and/or feel unsteady when standing or walking?
  • Can the individual transfer easily to and from the chair/couch?  Consider putting a piece of plywood under the cushion to make it easier to rise. Consider removing swivel chairs.
  • Is there a clear and unobstructed path to the front door?  Kitchen?  Bathroom? Are there electrical cords or phone cords strung across traffic paths?
  • Are there throw rugs or loose pieces of carpeting?  Consider removing them but if keeping a throw rug, replace with one with non-slid backs or using carpet tape to lessen the risk of tripping.
  • Are stair railings loose or broken?  Are steps broken or uneven?  Are there shoes, books or papers on the stairs?
  • Is the bathroom equipped with safety rails or bars if needed?
  • Are there nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways?

Care Coordinators will perform these evaluations at no cost to the senior.

Individuals who worry about falling may start limiting or stopping certain activities and become more isolated.  Alternatives’ Care Coordinators are a good starting point to conduct an evaluation, at no charge, of an older adult’s home and risks.  Care Coordinators will review the individual’s ability to get around their home and identify available supports and resources.  Another resource to consider contacting are the Area Agencies to sign up for a “Matter of Balance” class to improve balance and learn about ways to prevent falls.

Start being safe today!  Call:

Alternatives:  (309) 277-0167

Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging (for Illinois residents):  (309) 793-6800

Milestones Area Agency on Aging (for Iowa residents): (563) 324-9085