Nancy Reagan, the former first lady and widow of President Reagan, suffered a fall which broke a few ribs and it was just recently announced she has been recovering for the last 6 weeks. At age 90, Mrs. Reagan remains active in the Republican party. See, it is not just the Baby Boomer generation that is staying active in their later years - Mrs. Reagan is even from a generation born before the "Silent Generation" which is 1922 - 1945.
As many were surprised to here Mrs. Reagan had fallen again (she has had a few incidents), this is a reminder for senior caregivers that falls can be a natural part of aging. And, after any health injury, seniors must allow time for the body to heal. The healing process happens more slowly as part of the natural aging process - just part of the gift of getting to grow older.
Falls in the elderly are usually not due to just tripping on something, as falls for younger people may be. Instead, vision and hearing loss can impact balance which in turn will cause more falls. There may also be a delay in response time because of slower moving muscles.
Rush University Hospital in Chicago held a learning seminar for those of us in eldercare a few years ago and one of the presenters had studied the cause of falls in the elderly. In an effort to demonstrate that falls are due to balance issues and slower firing muscles, they created a red-carpet runway and had both younger and older people walk down it (while filming). They presented an obstacle at various places on the runway and then watched to see who would trip and fall.
Younger participants were able to regain balance quickly and avoid falling and elderly participants were not able to do so and would fall (they did allow them to wear a harness so they could catch them). It was a bit difficult to watch this film but it did prove the point of their findings.
As we age, our balance can be impacted by many health conditions. Part of the natural aging process means that our cells do not regenerate new cells. This means muscles and bones are not as strong. Because of this, even when an elder does want to stop the fall, sometimes they simply cannot.
Removing rugs that can slide or cause a stumble and eliminating stairs or other obstacles that can cause anyone to be more likely to fall are the first steps in preventing falls for the elderly. All of us have stumbled down a few stairs at some point – it happens. I even missed stepping up on a curb once when crossing the street and wiped out, in broad daylight. Which leads to another way to prevent falls for seniors which is to make sure they are wearing comfortable shoes that are easy for walking (even now I sometimes stuff my heels into the bag and wait until I arrive to make the swap).
Caregivers should always escort a senior who has become more frail, when going out in public. The safe way to do this is to place your arm underneath the senior’s arm and around to their back. This way you can instantly stop a fall.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, did break Mrs. Reagan’s fall when she lost her balance while walking into an event at the Reagan Library last summer but he actually was only holding on to her elbow and was lucky he caught her without hurting her arm.
Senior caregivers can gain more caregiving safety skills by taking a 10-hour online Caregiver Certification training course. Professional caregivers are taught the basic safety skills for transferring a senior and assisting with walking when they begin working for a senior care company. Those who would like to work as a professional caregiver should remember that Companion Caregivers only require personal experience (as often seniors with memory loss may require ongoing caregiving just to keep medications and daily activities on track). Caregivers and C.N.A.'s may apply for a caregiving job in their area to begin a career in senior care.
seniorcare, preventingfalls, caregivertraining