You don't often think of moving from place to place as potentially dangerous, but the reality for many seniors is that it can be. While slips and falls are a major fear for older adults, symbolizing both a physical concern and a potential loss of independence, a fall doesn't have to be life-altering. If your senior loved one has recently experienced a slip, here are some things to keep in mind to help with recovery, both physical and psychological.
Understand that falls will happen
Despite best intentions and preventive measures, the fact remains that seniors are afflicted by falls more often than you may realize. In fact, according to The New York Times, these incidents have actually been increasing in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified falls as the leading cause of injury - both fatal and nonfatal - for those over 65. In fact, the source noted that roughly one-third of seniors will experience a fall in their lifetime, and 2.4 million slips were treated in emergency departments in 2012 alone.
Falls can occur for a number of reasons, from physical injury or disability to cognitive impairment, weather conditions or even a simple distraction. The important thing is for both you and your loved one to understand that falls aren't a failing on their part, and not to get discouraged if one does happen.
Fitness is a significant indicator
The New York Times determined that, not surprisingly, one of the biggest indicators of how well a person could be expected to recover after a fall was directly tied to his or her level of physical ability. Those with either no disabilities or very slight ones were far more likely to recover more fully and quickly than those who experience moderate to severe disability.
In fact, the source reported that in a study, only one-third of seniors who were classified as severely or moderately disabled prior to their fall were able to fully recover within one year. Thus an important step to take along preventive lines is to improve a senior's level of physical fitness as much as possible through regular exercise. Even if an individual is living with a disability, regular activity and even physical therapy can help maximize functioning, which can be a huge factor in recovering post-fall.
Break down the psychological barriers
While falls are the leading cause of physical injury among seniors, much of the damage they can do is psychological. Especially in instances where seniors who were relatively fit and physically independent prior to their slip, a fall can serve as a huge blow to self-confidence and can leave seniors feeling unsure and unsafe with their bodies as well as fearing for their future independent living options.
Be.group highlighted the importance of creating a safe space during the recovery process. This can involve rearranging furniture to allow seniors more support while moving around or to widen walkways throughout their home. Not only can this help reduce the chance of additional falls during the delicate recovery period, but it can also help them to rebuild damaged self-confidence. Nobody likes the idea of losing independence, and providing a means for seniors to move around in their own homes safely can be a huge help - and may even make physical recovery faster and easier.
Following a fall that results in an injury, it's especially important to make sure the senior stays as active as possible. Be.group pointed out that there are several exercises that can be done during recovery to improve things like balance, muscle strength and even eye-tracking ability to help get seniors back on their feet more quickly.