May 8, 2020, © by Judith Allen Shone
Falls are a risk, especially for seniors. As caregivers, the risks are higher.
What if we become injured and can no longer care for our loved one?
For our own safety and wellbeing caregivers are told we must focus on being prepared…for just about anything…but especially so we can prevent falling. While the primary focus has been on a regular physical exercise program to help us avert falls or injury, there are other areas of our daily life equally as important to consider to make our home safer.
After taking a serious fall this past winter, at the age of 77, I earnestly support the MHLHIN/Lifemark Falls Prevention program.
I had been hurrying down the hall to the loo. I saw something on the floor and leaned down to pick it up…only, I lost my balance by stubbing my toe on the edge of the carpet. The momentum I started with intention took me tumbling forward, grabbing at air. I tried to stop what was already in motion…my body. I hit the dog gate. It fell toward me, getting in my way as I reached for the floor. The side of my hand took the weight of the fall, pushing on my arm. The bicep took an internal hit.
But my arm only slowed my fall. My nose hit the carpet first and then I felt the area of the skull above my eye sockets bounce on the padded floor.
And at the same time, my foot seemed also to bounce on the floor, breaking the three middle toes.
As I lay face down on the floor I wondered if something was broken. I hurt but could not tell if I were bleeding. Most of all I wondered how I would get up. I was not near furniture. My husband was asleep. Even if he had been awake, he, with Alzheimer’s, would not have known how to go for help. He probably would have stepped over me, sat in his seat and waited for me to get up.
The bumps on my head became lumps. The side of my hand below the little finger ached and turned blue! I fractured the nose septum. I still have pain in my arm and toes, now, three months later.
But think of this…it could have been far worse! What would that mean?
Was this a ‘wake-up fall?’
Pain and possibly life-changing physical injury are why we want to prevent falls.
There are a number of aspects of our lives that come into play that can help us ward off accidental falls. Assess ways to remove potential for falls.
If you have a Falls Prevention program near you, call and see how you would benefit. In Canada, check Lifemark locations. If you are in Ontario, phone Lifemark 1 800 315 4417 and ask to register (free) for their Community Outreach Program – MH-LHIN Falls Prevention program. Right now they offer teleconferencing and video exercising several times a week. Schedule in your area can be confirmed during your registration call. Caregivers, it is worth the self-care time
IN ALL CASES, ask a medical professional, certified therapist or licensed practitioner ‘what will be best’ for you.
1 –Exercise to keep our bodies mobile and strong should be a major focus. Therapists know the importance of basic muscle strength and mobility. Include a program that helps build up muscles to help with balance. We are encouraged to join a group, or at least exercise two to three times a week for 30 minutes. Physiotherapists can help us work the right muscles in the proper way. There are classes, instructors, videos and books, all to help us.
2 –areas of the home where we can reduce or eliminate the risk of falls by making changes. An Occupational Therapist can assist with this.
3 – chronic illnesses, or physical abilities, that create imbalance at some point;
4 –diet, which includes vitamins and minerals for strength building; and understanding the impact of foods, minerals and vitamins, sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water to improve your organ and muscle health;
5 –vision. Clear eyesight, or correct lenses, help with our balance by keeping us aware of the space around us. Good vision care can help prevent potential for falling. Get your eyes checked yearly by a professional and update lenses when prescriptions change;
6 –walking aids, walkers, canes, crutches, improper shoes all can create potential for fall. Be aware of their sturdiness, their placement, and maintain your focus as you walk.
I had to reach out for help. I could not be a caregiver if I were injured or in pain.
Encouraged my my physician, both My Love and I have been involved in local Falls Prevention and Balance classes to improve our ability to prevent future injury and pain. Consider how you can retain your mobility and strength. We have no choice but to stay mobile.
The Government of Ontario in Canada has a Falls Prevention Program which you can review. Also, Lifemark Wellness Falls Prevention Program follows information put out by Health Canada. The following items are taken from several sources.
Contact your health care provider if you would like someone to evaluate your situation. It is never too soon to make a difference in keeping you and your loved ones safe from falling!
On our list were a few items we learned so we could create a safer living space and help reinforce personal safety.
– Add grab bars in the shower stall to eliminate slipping and provide a shower chair for safety in the tub.
– Add bed rails to prevent rolling out of bed onto the floor. As well, a rail can be used for grabbing to help move in the bed.
– Remove scatter rugs to keep from slipping, tripping or stumbling.
– Be sure larger carpets are taped down or have non-skid padding beneath
– Remove clutter to avoid falling over loose objects.
– Arrange furniture so it allows a clear path for unobstructed movement.
– Assess how to keep pets from becoming a stumbling hazard.
– Check that all power cords are secured out of the walking path.
– Be sure lighting is sufficient in all areas
– Be sure chairs and tables are stable or firm.
– Tighten up loose steps on porches or decks.
– Remove steps where possible. Replace with ramps or step lifts or elevators
Personal Use evaluation:
– Evaluate shoes and slippers to be sure they are sturdy for balance and not loose.
– Replace normal socks with non-slip socks for those who wear socks indoors.
– Assure properly fitting clothes with appropriate hem lengths allow use of limbs
– Use a walker if balance requires; an OT can best determine the size and type
– Learn and practice how to get up from the floor using a solid chair as leverage to get up.
– Move slowly and not abruptly. Stand and wait before stepping forward.
Self-care is up to us:
…especially if we are caregivers. Have we made plans if something makes it impossible for us to continue being caregivers?
We must listen … and evaluate … when our families and friends mention situations that might need to be altered or changed to make a safer home. But remember we, the caregivers, live in the situation and probably know it best.
Our best defense is prevention. Falls prevention.
Contact your health care provider if you would like someone to evaluate your situation. It is never too soon to make a difference in keeping you and your loved ones safe.
Visit Lifemark.ca “…enriching the health of Canadians through movement.“
I tell the story of my fall in “Did You Hide the Cookies?” coming later in 2020. There, the story is used to reflect on ‘what if’ I had been permanently injured? I still ask, as a caregiver, what would I do?
Falls Prevention copyright(c) 2020 Judith Allen Shone
Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing!
Available from Amazon or online book sellers, order eBooks, paperback or hard cover or
Order from independent book sellers:
A Different Drummer Books, Burlington, Ontario,
Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, Colorado,
The Bookworm Omaha, Nebraska