Preventing Injuries in Seniors
Preventing injuries before they happen is essential. Seniors suffer injuries in their home more often than their more youthful counterparts. As people age they notice that bruises last longer, burns don’t heal as readily, and broken bones happen more often. Decreased eyesight, memory issues, and mobility restrictions that commonly arise with age may result in injuries if the proper safety precautions are not taken.
There are many reasons that seniors suffer in-home injuries. Many health conditions commonly affect seniors, which results in more frequent injuries. Some of these common health conditions include:
· Eye conditions such as macular degeneration and glaucoma,
· Mobility difficulties caused by arthritis, joint replacements, or age-related deficiencies of the musculature and skeleton,
· Parkinson’s disease,
· Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
· Illnesses such as cancer, shingles, or pneumonia.
Injuries caused by falls are a leading cause of seniors losing independence in their home. However, independence is also commonly jeopardized when a senior has a house fire or suffers a burn. In order to keep independence in the home, seniors must have a safe home. This means preparations must be made to modify the home environment and preventing injuries before they occur. Lists of household changes you can make to prevent falls and burns is included in this article. Although the lists are by no means comprehensive, they will give good ideas to assist with making seniors’ homes safer.
Falls are the most common cause of injury in seniors in Canada. Annually, one in every three persons over age 65 suffers at least one fall. The Canadian Institute for Health Information Hospital Morbidity Database reports falls account for 85% of injury-related hospitalizations in seniors. Even more frightening is the fact that over one-third of seniors who are hospitalized due to a fall will be place in long-term care. Obviously, falls clearly can result in hospitalizations, reduced quality of life, chronic pain, mobility loss, and even death.
The risk of falling increases significantly with age. The Canadian Community Health Survey – Healthy Aging reports 46% seniors aged 85 and above have a high risk of falling. This is compared to a 13% risk for seniors aged 65 to 69.
Obviously, the prevention of falls is paramount.
PREVENTING INJURIES FROM FALLS
The best way to avoid injuries from falls is to prevent the fall in the first place. A life-long regime of exercise is best to ensure strength, flexibility and stability. However, it’s never too late to start regular exercise provided there is clearance from the senior’s physician. If mobility and stability are a problem or if there is a fall history, some changes to the home to reduce falls is ideal. Some changes that are proven effective at reducing falls include:
- Adding handrails in the bathroom. Most falls happen in the bathroom so a focus on this room is wise. The addition of professionally installed handrails in the tub and shower is essential. Also, a properly sized shower seat is a necessity.
- Install an elevated toilet or toilet seat.
- Put non-slip mats in the bathroom both in the tub and on the floors.
- Remove any rugs with turned up edges, slippery bottoms, or that bulge with humidity or use. Even the slight rise of a rug edge can cause a trip hazard. It is best to remove rugs entirely if the senior tends to shuffle when walking.
- Remove clutter on the floor and leave wide paths for movement.
- Remove glass-topped coffee tables or sharp / hard-edged furniture.
- Install a stair lift and ensure the senior is properly trained on its use.
- Make sure all rooms are properly lit for senior eyes. What you can see in your 40’s, can’t necessarily be seen well in your 80’s under the same lighting conditions.
You may be entitled to government grants for home modifications if you are a senior. Check out these websites for more info:
If you are a veteran, further grants may be available.
PREVENTING INJURIES CAUSED BY BURNS
Burns are a common injury amongst seniors due to balance, vision, and memory issues. As we age, burn treatments become less effective. Mortality from burns is much more of an issue for seniors.
Consider taking the following steps to prevent burns and potential fires in the home:
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in many areas throughout the home. As hearing in seniors decline, so too does their ability to hear alarms that may be going off several feet away in hallways or basements. Consider additionally installing strobe lights for fire alarms if the senior is hard of hearing (as long as the senior doesn’t suffer from seizures or other conditions affected by strobes). Make sure battery operated smoke and CO detectors have regular battery changes.
- Set the water heater to a lower temperature.
- Have easy to operate fire extinguishers in the kitchen.
- Install automatic shut-offs on oven and stoves.
- Encourage smokers to stop smoking. If the senior is a smoker, designate the outdoors only as a smoking area.
- Employ a food delivery service or a personal support worker for food preparation to eliminate the need for use of hot burners.
If the senior has peripheral neuropathy, consider extra precautions. Pain sensation is reduced in those with peripheral neuropathy and burns can occur more readily in those individuals. Diabetes, infections, cancers, and some medications are just some of the things that can cause peripheral neuropathy.
Professional services like Simcoe Senior Services Inc. offer personal support workers. Aging at home can be safer with personal support workers making meals, keeping clutter to a minimum, cleaning, running errands, monitoring medications, and assisting with showers and bathing. If requested, personal support workers will also keep schedules for changing of smoke alarm batteries, calling professionals for furnace service, and generally watching for fall and burn risks.
Ready to find out more?
For more information on staying safe in your home and preventing injuries, contact Simcoe Senior Services.