What to do if an elderly person falls?
Posted on 13th March 2023 at 10:04
Anyone can have a fall, but as we age, our muscles tend to weaken and our balance starts decreasing, meaning older people are more vulnerable and therefore likely to fall, especially those with long-term health conditions.
Winter also brings the added challenge of cold and icy conditions, making this time of year particularly difficult for elderly people to get out and about and the likelihood of a fall more common.
Around 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65, and half of adults over the age of 80 will have one fall this year, if not more. Fortunately, most falls do not result in significant injury, but there is always the risk that a fall could lead to fractured or broken bones. Falling can also cause the person to lose confidence, become more withdrawn or even make them feel as though they are losing their independence.
This blog will cover what to do if you fall, and what to do if you see an elderly person fall.
What to do if I fall?
First, you need to try and stay as calm as possible, taking deep breaths in through your nose and out with your mouth, this is important because you may have gone into shock and need to calm down any shaking or an elevated heart rate.
If you are not hurt and you feel strong enough to get up, please do not get up too quickly, take your time, rest, and follow these steps.
• Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture such as a chair or a bed.
• Holding onto the furniture with both of your hands for support, slowly get yourself up, when you are off the floor, take a seat and rest for a little while before you carry on with your day.
• Please ensure you visit your GP, walk in clinic, or A&E for a check over.
If you are hurt or unable to get up without assistance, try to get someone’s attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your personal alarm or security system if you have one. If it is possible for you to do so, try crawling to a mobile or telephone and dial 999 to ask for an ambulance.
Try to reach for something warm, such as a blanket or dressing gown to put over yourself, particularly focusing on keeping your legs and feet warm, stay as comfortable as possible and try to change your position if you can, every 30 minutes, whilst you wait for help to arrive.
If you live alone, it might be good to enquire about getting a personal alarm system or purchasing a mobile phone to always keep in your pocket, so that you can signal for help in the event of a fall.
What to do if I see an elderly person fall?
If you see an elderly person fall it can be a scary experience, especially if that person is a loved one or a friend. Please do not panic though, stay as calm as possible so that you can think clearly and not panic the person further.
If you are a trained healthcare professional or first aider, please follow your own procedure in accordance with your training.
Often, older people might hide an injury because they are worried that they could lose their independence, they might also be embarrassed by the situation, either way it is so important to offer them reassurance that even if they do need some help, their dignity and independence would be maintained.
When coming across an elderly person who has just had a fall, do not get them up immediately, first check for injuries, if necessary try to calm the person down by asking them to take some deep breaths, they may be in shock, so get them to slowly breathe in with the nose and out with the mouth, whilst they are focusing on this, check them over for skin discolouration, swelling, or any other signs of serious injury.
If they have an obvious injury, are in serious pain or having issues moving, call 999 to ask for an ambulance, whilst help is on its way, wait with the person and try to keep them as comfortable as possible, keeping them warm, keeping them talking and moving positions if possible.
If there are no obvious signs of injury, then you can offer to assist them standing up, it is essential that you only assist them in getting themselves up though. This needs to be done slowly and carefully, with the person in full control, they may be more hurt than they realise and fail in getting themselves up, so be prepared for this possibility, if they do manage to get onto their feet, get them to sit down and rest before continuing there day and encourage them to visit their GP, walk in clinic, or A&E for a check over.
View this video for a recognised technique in assisting someone back to their feet.
If a fall occurs where a healthcare professional or first aider are nearby it is always best to ask for assistance and allow them to take over, there will be specific procedures for them to follow.
Always try to actively encourage them to visit their GP, walk in clinic, or A&E for a check over, injuries may take a while before they become obvious. If the person that fell is a loved one or a friend, try to keep an eye on them and check in on them regularly, a fall can be a massive dent to their confidence, so being there to reassure them will boost them massively.
What causes a fall?
The natural ageing process means that older people are more likely to have a fall, it is more likely because they may have:
• Issues with balance and weakened muscles
• Vision loss
• A long-term health condition, like Heart Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia or Hypotension, which can lead to dizziness and a brief loss of consciousness
A fall is more likely to happen if:
• Floors are wet, icy, or recently polished
• Poor lighting in a room
• Rugs or carpets not properly secured
• Going up or down the stairs
• Rushing to get to the toilet during the day or night
• Using a ladder
• Drinking excessive alcohol
It is a good idea to ensure that your loved one or friend can get about the house safely when they are on their own. Here are some tips to help minimise the risk of falling.
• Using non-slip mats in the bathroom
• Securing carpets and rugs correctly
• Mopping up spills to prevent wet, slippery floors
• Ensuring all rooms, passages and staircases are well lit
• Removing any trip hazards
• Getting help lifting or moving items that are heavy or difficult to lift
• Check if they are struggling to use the toilet
• Make sure they can easily gain access to cupboards or things that they need
• Make sure they’re sight is tested regularly
• Organising the home so that climbing, stretching, and bending are kept to a minimum
• Avoiding alcohol or reducing the amount you drink
• Wear well-fitting shoes
• Not wearing loose fitting or trailing clothes that might trip you up
Strength and balance training
Doing regular strength exercises and balance exercises can improve your strength and balance, therefore hopefully preventing your risk of having a fall.
This kind of training can take form through a variety of different activities, from simple activities like walking and dancing to more specialist training programmes which are tailored to the individual and delivered by an appropriately trained professional.
Many community centres and local gyms have specialist training programmes available for older people, by speaking to your GP you can find out what is available in your area and if there are any exercises that can be carried out at home.
Please consult a healthcare professional before undertaking any form of exercise to ensure that it will benefit you and not make your condition worse.
How can we help?
If you are worried about a loved one and think that they are putting themselves at risk of a fall, we can provide in home care services to help them with their daily routine whilst allowing them to maintain their independence in their own home, please give us a call to discuss what we can offer further.
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