As we age, taking a tumble carries with it many more risks than embarrassment.
Every year millions of people over the age of 65 experience a fall whether residing in retirement living or a private home. Falling is one of the most common causes of injuries and hospitalization for seniors, and injuries from falls can be painful, threaten independence, cause disability and even death.
Retirement living fall risks
Risk factors for falls in older adults in retirement living include increasing age, medication use and side effects, cognitive impairment and sensory deficits. As we age, physical changes that impact vision, strength and balance also can increase the risk of falling, and falls can result in moderate to severe injuries from hip fractures to head traumas to death.
Preventing falls in retirement living
The National Institute on Aging (NIH), recommends these steps to prevent falls:
- Stay physically active.
- Have your eyes and hearing tested.
- Review medical side effects.
- Get enough sleep.
- Stand up slowly.
- Use assistive devices if you need help feeling steady when walking.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled shoes or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet.
The best retirement communities proactively find ways to minimize risks before a fall occurs. Country Meadows Retirement Communities created a Falls Prevention Task Force comprised of representatives from Occupational and Physical Therapy, Fitness, Safety and Nursing who meet regularly and provide retirement living co-workers the tools to target and reduce the number of falls.
Every Country Meadows retirement living employee is empowered to report changes they observe in individual residents such as confusion and difficulty standing or walking in assisted living facilities. Periodic holistic reviews of each retirement living resident’s health and physical abilities enables co-workers to address potential issues before a fall. Prevention measures could include changing the environment by removing clutter or adding lighting. Adaptive equipment such as belts or mechanical transfer devices or walkers may be used to assist with safety.
The “fear of falling” factor
The fear of falling may cause a person in even the most active adult communities to limit activity which can decrease strength, balance and endurance over time and actually increase the risk of falling. “Becoming fearful of a fall can prevent a resident from participating in activities. They’ll say, ‘oh, I don’t want to go,’ because they are beginning to doubt their ability to take part, so it really affects their well-being. Loss of balance quickly becomes a quality-of-life issue,” says Kim Eichinger, Country Meadow’s executive director of Dynamic Living.
Fear of falling is a risk that can be nearly as bad as a fall itself since it interferes with quality of life. In addition to limiting activity involvement, retirement living residents who fear falling also may experience feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
Empowering retirement living residents
Country Meadows’ Falls Prevention Task Force created a retirement living falls database to track falls to analyze commonalities that may predict risk factors. The data revealed that retirement living residents are at high risk for falling when getting into or out of the chair.
To boost retirement living residents’ confidence, Country Meadows’ Fitness team created “Stand Up to Stop Falls”— a fitness program to encourage and provide retirement living residents with opportunities to regain and/or maintain the skills they need to safely transition from sitting to standing and back. The program targets specific skills related movement as well as range of motion and muscle development that seniors need to safely get in and out of chairs. A key benefit of the program is that it gives retirement living residents the opportunity to play a role in preventing falls and maintaining their independence.
What takes the Stand Up to Stop Falls program from ordinary to extraordinary is that it is a proactive intervention that feels more like fun than treatment. The routines are set to music, designed to be socially engaging, lively, and unique to retirement living locations.
“When seniors are confident in their ability to make that transition from sitting to standing, they are more likely to participate in everything from bus trips to movies and even exercise classes,” says Eichinger. “Staying active literally is the key to staying active.”
When falls-related intervention is needed in retirement living
A laser focus on fall incidents puts an emphasis on prevention and empowers retirement living employees and residents to prevent falls. When a fall occurs at Country Meadows, the root cause must be identified and recorded in the Falls Prevention Task Force database. Retirement living co-workers then work together to determine steps that can prevent the individual from experiencing a future fall.
Interventions are individualized to each retirement living resident and might include:
- Providing floor mats
- Recommending more appropriate footwear
- Reviewing medications for side effects
- Consulting therapy services to address strength and/or flexibility losses.
Learn more about retirement living at Country Meadows
With nine locations in Pennsylvania and one campus located in Frederick, Maryland, Country Meadows has often been referred to as one of the best retirement living options in the area. We offer a range of retirement living services to meet the needs of a variety of seniors. Some of these services include restorative care, rehabilitation, personal care and assisted living, memory support and independent living. If you – or a family member or loved one – are beginning to research retirement living options and would like more information about our senior independent living communities, contact us today. Our friendly and knowledgeable co-workers are always happy to provide details about our services as well as set up campus tours for families who are interested in visiting our retirement living campuses.