As the former Caregiver of my late mother and father, it’s easy for me to stand at the mound and pitch all the fall prevention advice I learned from being their caregiver for over 30 years.
Both my father and mother had mobility challenges and both experienced trips and falls countless times. Some were catastrophic, and some caused no damage. Before I begin lobbing in my advice, I want to preface it with “I’ve been there done that”. I understand how falls can impact a family, and how some falls can change a life forever. I also understand how devastating it is to be the individual responsible for educating a loved one on the necessary solutions that need to be made to save a lot of heartache.
Imagine if I had really forced my dad to use his cane. Maybe he wouldn’t have fallen over the railing to our basement, landed on his back and had to crawl to the phone to get help. That cane could have saved us all a lot of heartache, as well as bump and bruises. Or if I had urged my mom to use her life alert device, maybe the time she fell in the kitchen, wedging herself between the open refrigerator door and cabinets, she wouldn’t have been in that horribly awkward position for over three hours without help.
What I do know is that all could have been avoided if certain preventative measures were put in place prior to their falls.
Here’s my advice, so you can help your loved one:
Communicate: Talk to your loved ones about preventing falls, educate them on the dangers, address them with kindness and ask them what they believe they need to do to prevent falls. Your loved one may have a few ideas that you can easily implement.
Alert device: Research online and select the top three alert devices that could fit nicely into your loved one’s life. Delicately introduce them to your loved one and go over the pro’s and con’s of each. If your loved one doesn’t embrace the device due to vanity-related reasons, gently explain how such a tool could someday save their life. Remind them that having this device on their person will take some time to get used to, but it will eventually become familiar and a part of their everyday routine.
Home assessment: With your loved one, do an assessment of their home. Look for area rugs, loose wires and cords or furniture that may cause falls. Remove them all or secure where needed. Point out certain areas to always keep clean and free of clutter, especially stairs and hallway. Review this home safety checklist to begin your assessment.
Shine the light! An easy fix is to put night lights all over the house, particularly the ones that automatically come on when the it gets dark. This will ensure that certain pathways have enough light to safely and easily navigate them. Most loved ones don’t fight this fix.
Bathrooms: The room where the most falls happen. To prevent falls, the most essential solutions for a bathroom are: toilet rail, grab bar and tub rails. I installed these in my mom’s home and low-and-behold, she did not resist. The toilet rail is so essential and easy to install. You don’t need a ‘special toilet’, and the rail eliminates the use of a slippery counter to help you get up.
Kitchen: A handheld reacher and step stool will prevent your loved one from using an unstable chair or stool to grab things off of a top shelf. These tools are life savers!
Mobility: Canes, walkers and rollators are so hard to get used to, and most loved ones resist at first. Approach this one with kid gloves. Show your loved one the many options (look at the different canes, walkers, and rollators options here) and ask them which ones they’d use. I did this with my mom, and she loved her Nitro rollator. Once she embraced it, she was the talk of her retirement community! I also placed a few canes throughout her home in different locations that were easy to get to and always an option!
The solutions above seem easy enough; however, leveling the playing field with someone who has done one thing for a whole lotta years is harder than you think. Be patient, let your loved one come around and take your time as you educate them. Most importantly, take yourself out of the equation and try and understand the situation from their perspective. Lead with the facts and present solutions that will inspire them to live their best life.