An elderly loved one falling for the first time can be scary, but it’s no time to panic – it’s time to plan. One in four Americans age 65+ fall each year, according to the National Council on Aging, and most do not suffer major injury. With a plan in place to help prevent and manage future falls paired with support and caregiving if they were injured, you can put your loved one in the best position possible to retain their independent lifestyle.
What to Do Immediately After an Elderly Loved One Falls
While the focus of this blog is about the necessary planning after a fall, not addressing the fall in the moment, we thought it would be important to mention a few things about handling a fall first.
If your loved one has just fallen:
- First check for any injuries and make sure that your loved one is OK.
- Assist them in getting up off the floor if possible, but don’t push it. If they have any problems getting up off the floor with your assistance, call for an ambulance right away.
- If you think that any injury has occurred or something has broken, it might not be best to move them and you should call an ambulance right away.
- Even if it looks like your loved one is OK after a fall, you should take them to the doctor to get checked out after the accident. Sometimes injuries can be hidden. For a few days after the fall, be vigilant and check up on your loved one regularly.
Once your loved one has been stabilized after the accident, it’s time to start planning for the future.
What Can Happen After an Elderly Loved One Falls
Falls can manifest in different ways and can be caused by different issues. Here are a few potential scenarios:
Your loved one fell and was not injured.
If your loved one was not injured after a fall, consider this to be a blessing, but do not relax vigilance. Special precautions should be enacted to reduce the chance of another fall, such as making the house safer by removing loose rugs, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that your loved one may understandably be reluctant to share the details of a scary and confusing experience: the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control points out that less than half of older people who fall tell their doctor.
Your loved one fell, was injured (and treated), and is now recovering.
Falls are dangerous and can lead to serious injury, including bone fractures and concussions. In fact, according to the CDC, one out of five falls does cause such an injury. And as The University of Pennsylvania Medicine explains, the risk of broken hips during a fall continues to increase as people age. A fractured hip is a very serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. They can lead to a sudden decrease in mobility and even dramatic health decline. For these reasons, having proper care for someone recovering from a fall injury is paramount, and in these cases, an in-home caregiver can be ideal.
Your loved one fell and did not realize they were injured.
In these cases, the loved one has fallen, is now up and mobile, but doesn’t realize they have a mild injury. These injuries might include soft tissue injuries such as sprains or muscular tears. If your loved one is mobile but in pain in the week or so following an accident, they should have that pain checked out, even if they were already cleared by a doctor immediately following the accident. According to a report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the risk of a fall doubles after falling once, so stay vigilant.
Creating a Plan for Your Elderly Loved One Post-Fall
The extent to which you will be able to make a plan for your loved one will depend on the living situation and how much control you have over their environment. Here are some things to consider when planning for your loved one after a fall:
Does your elderly loved one live alone?
Does your loved one live alone or with someone else? This is a key part of any planning process. If you are living with your senior family member then you may be able to keep watch over your loved one, but even then, you may need some help from a caregiver if you have a day job.
What type of environment does your loved one live in?
Houses, condos, and apartments should be made as “trip-proof” as possible. The National Institute on Aging provides many helpful suggestions here. If your loved one must climb a lot of stairs to reach a second-floor apartment, is it perhaps time to move them to a first-level flat? Are rugs and cables secured so they do not become tripping hazards? Does the loved one have a way to contact someone for help if they fall? This might include making sure telephones are reachable from the floor or an alert device is worn.
How mobile is your loved one?
Why did your loved one fall? Was it a “one-off” or due to a chronic condition, vestibular problems, or neuropathy of the feet as with diabetes? Will your loved one need help for daily activities such as preparing food, eating, and using the bathroom? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, mobility is best assessed in a clinical environment from a certified medical provider, as a recent video published by the New England Journal of Medicine explains.
What Your Fall Recovery and Prevention Plan Might Look Like
Here are few things to consider when developing your plan:
- Making the home environment more “fall- and trip-proof”
- Getting the proper healthcare to alleviate any conditions that might contribute to falling
- Enrolling your loved one in physical therapy to improve balance
- Enlisting help from a professional caregiver
How a Professional Caregiver Can Help
Having a professional caregiver in the home can be invaluable for helping a loved one after a fall or other accident. Caregivers can help with everything from light housekeeping tasks to grocery store transportation to chronic condition care. Homewatch CareGivers® offers in-home care services for seniors and elderly adults. We serve people in the greater Chicago area.
Interested in personalized, connected care from a qualified caregiver? View all our in-home services.