Simply living in independent living communities can reduce a senior’s fall risk
We’ve all taken a tumble and most times the only casualty is our pride. However, as we age, falling can result in serious injury and in extreme cases, lead to premature death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms every year due to injuries sustained in a fall and more than 800,000 are hospitalized, most often due to a head injury or hip fracture. Even more alarming, the death rate in older adults due to falls has increased 30 percent since 2007. If this rate continues to rise, seven fall deaths will occur every hour by 2030.
Falls are common, costly, predictable and largely preventable. Seniors can reduce their risk of falls, especially those residing at senior independent living communities. Most senior communities have strategies and programs in place to identify and reduce fall risks for residents.
The main tactic senior independent living communities employ is simple – having more people around in case of emergencies. “We have more eyes on our residents than a person living alone in a private home,” says Lisa Torchia-vice president, clinical support services at Country Meadows Retirement Communities. “Our co-workers are trained to notice and report changes in a resident’s abilities and functions such as confusion, difficulty standing or walking issues.”
Preventing falls and keeping residents safe and active are top priorities at Country Meadows, which has a Falls Prevention Task Force with leadership from various departments including therapy services, fitness, safety, wellness and nursing, to provide guidance and support. The program’s goal is to reduce falls at every campus by giving co-workers more tools to target and prevent falls among residents in independent living communities.
Prevention measures are customized to each resident and might include changing the environment by removing clutter or adding lighting, encouraging the individual to use a cane or walker or adding tools to help make everyday tasks safer.
“We try to be proactive to note potential fall risks before a fall occurs,” says Karen Geiser, clinical services specialist. “for example, when a new resident moves in, we look at what items a resident brought with them, how we can help safely arrange items within their apartment to remove obstacles, examine shoes and slippers to be sure they have non-slip bottoms, evaluate bed height and many more factors.”
Reviewing and managing medications is another important tool to identify older adults who have increased risks for falls. Sometimes a new medication may have side effects such as dizziness, confusion or make people tired—factors which might contribute to fall risk. Also, nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin D, which is common among older people, may lead to wrong gait patterns, muscle weakness and osteoporosis which contribute to fall risk.
Independent living communities such as Country Meadows, often track falls data to analyze common causes of resident falls. At Country Meadows, data from the falls tracking database revealed that residents are at high risk for falling when getting into or out of a chair. To be proactive, and prevent falls during this daily activity, co-workers received additional body mechanics training to aid them to safely assist residents. The organization also created a series of classes featuring “sit-to-stand” strengthening exercises.
Another tool most independent living communities have on-site are fitness centers where residents use equipment such as exercise bicycles, treadmills and weight machines to build endurance and gain strength and flexibility. At Country Meadows, trained fitness professionals develop and oversee individual resident fitness programs and lead group exercise classes and programs. A fringe benefit to improving fitness in our golden years is gained confidence, which aids in reducing falls.
“When seniors are confident in their ability to make that transition from sitting to standing, they have more confidence and are more likely to participate in everything from bus trips to movies and even exercise classes,” says Kim Eichinger, executive director of dynamic living at Country Meadows.
One fitness co-worker adds, “We have residents who were doing virtually nothing at home to coming here and feeling, now, on top of the world because they’ve become healthy and fit.”
According to the National Institute on Aging, there are steps seniors can take to help prevent falls:
- Stay physically active. Regular exercise improves muscles and builds strength. It also help keep joints, tendons and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities may slow bone loss from osteoporosis.
- Have eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing can lead to falls. Take time to get used to new eyeglasses or contact lenses. Make sure hearing aids fit well and wear it.
- Find out about the side effect of medications.
- Get enough sleep. People are more likely to fall when sleepy.
- Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause blood pressure to drop, making people feel wobbly.
- Wear the proper footwear. Non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support feet help prevent slipping. Don’t walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes or slippers with smooth soles.
Independent living communities can help seniors learn tactics to gain confidence and lower fall risk. Contact us today to see how we can help you stay on your feet.
Country Meadows has nine locations in Pennsylvania and one campus location in Frederick, Maryland. Often referred to as one of the best independent living communities in the area, we offer a wide range of services to serve a variety of resident needs. The services within our independent living communities include restorative care, rehabilitation, personal care and assisted living, memory support and independent living. If you or a loved one are beginning the retirement planning journey and would like more information about our independent living communities, please contact us today. Our co-workers can provide details on the services we offer, help you to schedule a tour of our independent living communities and answer any other questions you might have.