Falls are the leading cause of injury in the elderly. In fact, one out of every four elderly adults falls each year, sustaining severe injuries. This is a significant concern to everyone in their life, especially their caregivers. Although you should try to minimize falls, the inevitable can happen at any time.
Your response can significantly impact the outcome. That’s why learning what to do will ensure the person stays calm, doesn’t worsen their injuries and receives medical help more quickly.
The most common injuries are sprains, broken bones, and head injuries. Keep in mind that you may need a specialist for some injuries, such a doctor who regularly treats concussions, or an expert from the Align Foot & Ankle Center for breaks or sprains.
Read on to find out what to do should an older person fall in your presence.
Don’t Move Them Immediately
After a fall, help them calm down, then check for injuries, bruises and swelling. Ask if they’re in any pain, and where. When in severe pain, limit movement and keep them comfortable as you call for help. If they have hit their head or are bleeding, assess whether moving them would risk further injury. If you are not sure, call emergency services for guidance.
What To Do When the Elderly Person Is Unresponsive
If there’s no response when you call their name or touch them gently, they could be unconscious or even in a coma. Check if they’re breathing normally. If not, start CPR and have someone call 911 for help, or call yourself. Ensure the older person is comfortable, then loosen their clothes and try to clear the airways.
If They Have a Head Injury, Check for Responses
Check for severe injuries, as these can be deadly. This is especially true in the case of head injuries. Look at the person’s eyes for signs of a concussion such as swelling, blood in one or both eyes, pupil dilation, or unequal pupil size. If they can’t follow your finger or their eyes are unresponsive, call for an ambulance immediately.
Help Them Up, If They Feel Ready
If the older person has fallen and is lying on their back, help them sit down or lay down in a more comfortable position. If they feel that they can stand up, help them get up slowly but check for sharp pains or difficulty standing.
Ask if anything hurts. If the person can walk, guide them to a nearby chair to check for injuries and then rest for a while. If they develop a fever, pain, or seem disoriented, call 911 immediately.
If You Don’t Know What to Do
Call the medics if you’re confused or don’t know what to do. The same is true if you can’t lift them off the ground on your own. However, you can try to help the person sit up if they’re not in excruciating pain, and then prop them up against something or lay them on their side so as not to choke on vomit. Check for clear breathing and make a call for help afterward.
When an Elderly Person Falls Often
Frequent falls are a sign of more severe health conditions or cognitive impairments. When you realize this could be an issue, book them for a thorough checkup. Some possible causes might be:
- Blood pressure issues or impaired vision that lead to slips and falls
- Nerve damage and sensory issues
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Environmental hazards
- Declining physical fitness
- Chronic illnesses
How To Prevent Falls
There are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of falling. A doctor can prescribe stabilizing shoes, including ones with anti-slip soles. Using proper lighting and decluttering can also lower the risks of slips and falls. Other considerations are:
- Installing grip rails and loops within safe reach
- Reserving a pathway that’s well lit and clutter-free
- Having them under supervision at all times, especially when their health is declining
- Investing in non-slip flooring and keeping it dry at all times
- Keeping them physically active to build muscle strength and improve coordination
Your Fast Action Can Determine the Outcome After a Fall
When a fall results in serious injuries, what you do next can significantly impact your loved one’s recovery. Make sure you seek immediate medical help but keep them comfortable and calm in the meantime. Even when it was a minor fall, make sure to have a medical checkup afterward.
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