Fall Prevention Awareness Week started Saturday, September 22 and runs until Friday, September 28. Stopfalls.org has excellent resources and tools to support ongoing efforts including flyers, posters, fact sheets and videos. A fall can result in injury, trauma and even death. Sometimes the fall isn't even the scariest part and it is the post-fall events of surgery, immobility and potentially pneumonia that result in death.
Like many baby-boomers, my mother is the caretaker for my grandmother. Now in her 90s, my grandmother is sharp as a tack, witty, and full of life, however, she is also very frail and purposeful in her movements. My mother lives in a two-story Cape-style home and serves dinner in her dining room, requiring my grandmother to venture down a flight of stairs from her bedroom. My mother's husband has a coordinated drill with my grandmother that I always enjoy watching when I'm around. He takes her arm gently in his, stands beside her and they descend slowly and methodically down the stairs, one at a time, as if they were a single person. He matches his stride to hers, paying close attention to her hesitations, much like a dance partner. While he initially started doing the "stair dance" as a supportive function, he is actually preventing her from falling.
Not all older adults have a stair dancing partner, so it's important to find another effective method of fall prevention. In a home with more than one floor, an electronic stair-lift may be appropriate if arrangements cannot be made for the individual to live fully on one floor. Recognizing trip hazards is also very important. My mother has three cats, so it's necessary to ensure a cat is not underfoot when my grandmother moves about.
We are likely all familiar with an aging family member that is at risk of a fall. No matter how adamant they are about living on their own or continuing their daily routines without worry, any of us that work in healthcare recognize the serious risks. We want to protect our parents, our grandparents, or even our great-grandparents, but we must also respect their desires if they choose to age in their homes, even if they are doing so alone. Engage them in the conversation and review the checklists on stopfalls.org, watch videos together and let them know you care about their safety.