Preventing Falls Help Seniors Stay at Home

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Q. My 80-year-old mother lives alone in her home and lately I've noticed bruises on her arms and legs. I suspect that she's been falling. What advice can you give me to help her?

Your concern about your mother is justified. More than one-third of all adults over the age of 65 fall each year. What's more, falls account for half of all injury deaths among those seniors age 65 and older. The frail elderly and those over the age of 80 are particularly vulnerable.

Much research has been done to help determine what causes the elderly to suffer falls. According to the National Safety Council, mobility problems and poor health are among the leading causes. Environmental conditions in the home also are contributing factors.

Your mother's reluctance to tell you that she's falling is very common. Like many seniors, your mom most likely fears losing her independence and being forced to leave her home because she can no longer take care of herself. What your mother may not realize, though, is that falls often lead to situations where seniors must leave home.
The fact that your mother apparently is becoming frailer, though, does not necessarily mean that she must move. Seniors today are staying at home longer than ever before.
Nearly 89 percent of seniors say they are very or somewhat likely to remain in their homes rather than move to a care facility. It is important, though, that you help your mother stay safe if she is to remain at home.

First, make sure that your mother has a complete physical with her regular doctor who is familiar with her health history and medications. Changes in medical condition can cause dizziness, which may lead to falls.
Second, a senior's environment must be adjusted as aging occurs. Keep the environment simple and uncluttered. Are the stairs and floors free of items that could cause your mom to trip? Remove area rugs.
Third, if you're concerned that your mother should not be alone, consider hiring an in-home care company.

Home Instead provides caregivers who are screened, trained, bonded and insured. They offer non-medical home care and companionship, from a few hours a week to round-the-clock, depending on the level of care needed.

Finally, you should have a plan of action in the event that your mom falls while alone at home. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging office or your hospital to learn about the medical alert programs available that can help keep your mother safe.

And remember, you and your mother are not alone. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, nearly one of every four households in America is involved in caregiving to someone age 50 and older. By working together, we can help ensure that seniors remain safe, healthy and independent for years to come.

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