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Autumn is quickly approaching, but for older adults and their caregivers the word fall is more than just a season. For many older adults, the word fall can bring up fearful thoughts of injury, loss of independence, and even death. Unfortunately, the statistics support this fear. Falls are the leading cause of injuries for older Americans. Did you know that 1 in 4 older adults fall each year? It is a staggering statistic that leads to an older adult being treated in the emergency room every 11 seconds for a fall related injury. Falls among older adults are very costly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, about $50 billion is spent on medical costs related to non-fatal fall injuries and $754 million is spent related to fatal falls.

However, there is an additional cost to consider. That is the impact that falls have on caregivers. Caregiving can be a tough job that can take a toll on the caregiver’s health, especially as their loved one’s health declines. A single fall can impact the care recipient’s health adversely. Caregivers have reported a significant increase in caregiver burden after a loved one’s first fall, and increased anxiety over concerns for their loved one’s safety and well-being.

Falls prevention is a group effort. The National Council of Aging has a Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers that provides caregivers with tools to help them take preventative steps to reduce the risk of their loved one falling. Below are three steps designed to help prevent a loved one’s serious injury, help them stay healthy, and maintain an independent lifestyle. The information gathered in these steps can help start a conversation with the person you are caring for to determine if they are at risk for a fall, and develop an action plan.

  1. Complete the Falls Free Check Up Assessment to determine if the person you are caring for is at risk for a fall.
  2. Talk about falls prevention with others. Use the observations from Step 1 to start a conversation with family, friends, physicians, and the person that you are providing care. The guide includes conversation notes on how to begin.
  3. Develop a falls prevention action plan. Now is the time to put the information gathered from the first 2 steps into action by immediately creating a falls prevention action plan. The guide shares 7 action steps to help create the action plan.

Many people think that falls are just an inevitable part of aging. However, most falls are preventable. September 20th-24th, 2021 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. This campaign brings awareness to the prevalence and prevention of falls. To find more information about the topic and Falls Prevention Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Aging or the Ohio Department of Aging.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, OSU Extension Educator, Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly MEd., OSU Extension, Family Consumer Science Educator, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

References:

Cost of Older Adult Falls, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://www.cdc.gov/falls/data/fall-cost.html

Dow, B., Meyer, C., Moore, K.J., & Hill, K.D. (2013). The impact of care recipient falls on caregivers. Australian Health Review, 37(2), 152-157

Falls Prevention Conversation Guide For Caregivers, The National Council on Aging, Retrieved September 13, 2021 from: https://assets-us-01.kc-usercontent.com/ffacfe7d-10b6-0083-2632-604077fd4eca/fd1890e1-4a6b-4ede-9acb-4775de02f27f/2021-Falls-Prevention-Awareness-Week_Conversation-Guide-for-Caregivers_English_6-29.pdf

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familyDoes the rush of the holiday season leave you feeling as if you might be missing something? With so many things to do and places to go, it is important not to overlook elderly family members. For many, the holidays are filled with celebrations and festivities with family and friends, but it can be a difficult time for those who have difficulty getting around, or are confined to their homes. Many seniors report feelings of loneliness and isolation, and these feelings can be exaggerated during the holidays. Seniors might choose to forego family celebrations and festivities for fear of falling or being a burden.

Unfortunately a day out with an elderly person cannot be spontaneous. However, with a little pre-planning and modifications, holiday traditions and activities can be made easier and safer for senior family members.  Contemplate ways to include older relatives who may have difficulty getting around.

First, consider the activity. Is it suitable for elderly family members?  When planning, some factors to think through are:

  • How far can the elderly person travel?
  • Are the costs affordable to the senior?
  • How much walking is involved?  Are there hills or other obstacles that would make it hard to navigate?
  • Is there wheelchair access?
  • Is there parking nearby?
  • Are restrooms easily accessible?
  • Are there benches or chairs that can be used?

It is also important to think about what you need to take with you on any outing. You will want to be prepared for anything. For example:

  • Make sure you have all the medications needed. Take an extended supply, just in case you are still out when the next dose is due.
  • Have clothing appropriate for the weather and the outing. Comfortable shoes and warm weather clothes are important. Bring along extra clothes in the case of an accident.
  • Bring some snacks and plenty of water.

Once you get to the activity, the next step is to be alert to any hazards or problems that might occur. Holidays are a joyful time of year meant for get-togethers, memories, and a touch of nostalgia. However, the holiday season can be one of the most dangerous times for seniors. For example:

  • You may be perfectly capable of navigating the string of Christmas lights sprawled across the living room floor, but an elderly person may trip over them and experience a severe fall.
  • Be aware of how decorations may affect your loved ones ability to move freely throughout the home without increasing the risk of falls. Just because you can easily navigate the extra decorations, doesn’t mean that your loved one will.
  • Look for extension cords or floor rugs that can lead to a fall.
  • Consider the effect that too much clutter can have on a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Too many lights, music and decorations can prove to be too overwhelming.
  • Make sure that walkways are clear of ice and snow.

The holidays give seniors something to look forward to, provide a stimulating change of scene, and create pleasant memories to carry with them. So, even though it may take a little extra planning and work, involving your senior family members in holiday celebrations can improve the meaning of the holiday season.

Sources:

http://www.ncoa.org/

http://aging.ohio.gov/home/

http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/factsheets/depression_holidays.html

Writer: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region

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