Sunday, March 23, 2008

Safety in the Adult Foster Care Setting

(originally posted - 30 December 2007)

Winter is fully upon us in northern Michigan — snow and ice present hazards that can lead to slips and falls by a senior client or your older loved one. From the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:

“ Among people 65 years and older, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. Each year in the United States, nearly one third of older adults experience a fall.

In 2003, more than 13,700 people 65 years or older died of fall-related injuries. Another 1.8 million were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries related to falls. The total direct cost for falls among older adults in 2000 was about $19 billion. Given the growing population of this age group, this cost is expected to reach $43.8 billion by 2020.”

And this: “From 1988 to 2000, the unintentional fall death rates for both men and women increased significantly (p<.01, test for linear trend). In 2000, rates for men were 20% higher than rates for women.
(Data: Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2002.)

There are things you can do to help prevent such accidents. The following is from the guide, “What YOU Can do to Prevent a Fall,” published through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

What You Can Do to Prevent Falls

Many falls can be prevented. By making some changes, you can lower the chances that an elderly person may fall.

Four things YOU can do to prevent falls:

1. Begin a regular exercise program

2. Have your health care provider review your medicines

3. Have your vision checked

4. Make your home safer

1. Begin a regular exercise program

Exercise is one of the most important ways to lower your chances of falling. It makes you stronger and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful. Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling. Ask your doctor or health care provider about the best type of exercise program for you.

2. Have your health care provider review your medicines

Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines. As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall.

3. Have your vision checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition like glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling.

4. Make your home safer

About half of all falls happen at home. To make your home safer:

  • Remove things you can trip over (like papers, books, clothes, and shoes) from stairs and places where you walk.

  • Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep the rugs from slipping.

  • Keep items you use often in cabinets you can reach easily without using a step stool.

  • Have grab bars put in next to your toilet and in the tub or shower.

  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.

  • Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang light-weight curtains or shades to reduce glare.

  • Have handrails and lights put in on all staircases.

  • Wear shoes both inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.

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