For senior citizens and their families, few things generate as much fear as the thought of a fall. It’s a very real threat for those whose mobility may be an issue and it’s something that Eric Friedrich and Mary Berg think about frequently.
Friedrich, the franchisee of FirstLight Home Care in Brunswick, and Berg, a registered nurse with the company, often work with patients and their families to find ways of making their homes as safe as possible.
“The biggest pitfall for seniors is that they don’t want to be a burden on anyone, so a lot of times falls go unreported to families,” Berg says.
“It can even be a minor fall with a bump or bruise, or it can be a fracture, forcing them to leave their home which is what they love and where they flourish.”
Keeping patients in homes and well-cared for is a top priority at FirstLight. The non-medical, in-home care program offers many services aimed at providing comfort and companionship, in addition to offering tips on safety precautions.
“Our goal is to really help with activities of daily living — bathing, mobility, and hygiene. We also provide companionship, as well. We’re there for company and socializing. We take them out for walks and get them doing what they liked doing, which is important.”
Of course, making sure seniors stay safe is always at the forefront. And preventing falls is especially critical. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the most common cause of non-fatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Ninety-five percent of the 250,000 hip fractures that occur annually are the result of falls. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room due to a fall. And, every 19 minutes, an older adult will die from a fall.
But Friedrich and Berg know that with just a little attention, these accidents can be avoided.
“You want to look at removing obstacles and clearing pathways. You need to remove clutter and rugs so that their feet or their walker doesn’t get caught on it,” she says.
“You also want to ensure that any ambulatory devices are at the right height too. Otherwise if they try to grab the walker and rise from a sitting position, they could be knocked off balance. It’s a common thing.”
Making sure other household items are at the appropriate height is also key. Toilets, Berg says, are often causes of falls.
“You have to make sure they’re at the right height,” she says.
It’s easy to replace items or purchase affordable implements that can help seniors too.
“The ‘grabber’ tool is very helpful and that keeps them from bending over,” Friedrich says. “And those, along with many other items, are very affordable, $50 or under, and all on Amazon.”
In addition to avoiding falls, Friedrich and Berg encourage families to prepare for a worse case scenario. One of the best tools to help, they note, is a medical alert device.
“Of course, you have to wear that for it to work,” Berg says. “But it’s so great to have a button that you can push in case something goes wrong.”
Friedrich agrees and notes that, today, they can also come equipped with a fall detector.
“If a person falls and is incapacitated, they can detect it. That brings families a lot of comfort,” he says.