October 31st, 2011 at 10:16 am
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Four ways to help elders keep their balance

by Dorian Martin

My 86-year-old father fell again recently. These missteps are worrisome since falls account for 70% of accidental deaths in people age 75 and older, according to the American Family Physician. Therefore, Dad’s experiences may provide important insights that can help other elders avoid falling.

Dad first fell two years ago while living alone. He was carrying groceries into his apartment when his foot caught the door’s threshold. Dad didn’t hurt himself, but he couldn’t get up or reach the phone. Fortunately, he subscribed to a home medical alert system. He pushed an alert button on a necklace provided by the company that notified first responders and me. Within a few minutes, Dad was helped to his feet.

Shortly thereafter, Dad stumbled three more times. Although not physically injured, Dad’s confidence became increasingly shaky. I encouraged Dad to consider trading his cane for a walker, but he refused. We also talked to his doctor about Dad’s instability. The doctor determined that these falls coincided with an increase in one medication. After the prescription was reduced, Dad’s falls ended–until recently.

Elders and falling: four tips to remember

This most recent stumble was due to the environment. I noticed Dad experienced difficulty in maintaining his balance while getting out of a rocking chair in the living room. I replaced the rocker with a sturdy chair from Dad’s bedroom and then moved an dining room chair into his bedroom. One evening, Dad leaned on the dining room chair as he bent to retrieve something from the bedroom floor. Unfortunately, the chair was not as stable as the other chair and Dad lost his balance. I heard his calls for help and, with our neighbor’s aid, we got Dad back on his feet unharmed. The fall made Dad wary and prompted him to enroll in a balance course.

Here are four things I learned through Dad’s falling issues.

  1. Use a medical alert service. Subscribe to a service that will alert you and emergency responders when an elder falls.
  2. Medications may affect balance. Consult a doctor if your loved one suddenly experiences balance issues to see if a recent prescription change is the cause.
  3. Choose an appropriate walking aid. Select appropriate walking aids (a cane or a walker) that can help the elder maintain balance.
  4. Review the environment. Check the environment for potential hazards, such as rugs, dim lighting, rocking chairs, and chairs that aren’t sturdy. Make appropriate changes.

I’ll write more in future blogs about lessons from Dad’s balance course.

Posted in Caregiving, Other | 2 Comments »
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2 Comments to “Four ways to help elders keep their balance”

  1. Dorian Martin

    Hi, Jeff,

    Great point! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Jeff

    Falls can be very serious causing injury or worse, a sign that something is going wrong. In addition to the great suggestions posted here, there are plenty of devices like furniture risers and standers that make getting up from a chair or sofa safer and easier.

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