Key Tips to Preventing Falls and What to Do When You’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up
As people age, the risk for falling increases. One in three people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year. Those falls represent risks to people’s health and safety.
Perhaps even more damaging, a fall can make people feel tentative and insecure in their own homes. Those feelings can undermine a senior’s independence and ability to live the lifestyle they’ve chosen. For people who have fallen and can’t get up immediately, the fear can be devastating.
There are preventative steps you or your loved ones can take to avoid some of the common causes of falls. For example, make sure all flooring is securely tacked down, or remove loose rugs that can be a tripping hazard. Have handrails installed at the proper height on all stairways, and ensure the items you use regularly are stored within reach so you don’t have to use a ladder or stool.
Also, staying active helps to maintain muscle strength and joint flexibility, which can reduce the risk of a fall.
“I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up”
The first thing to do after you’ve fallen is remain calm. Stay still for a moment and assess yourself. Where are you? Do you feel discomfort or pain anywhere? Also take in your surroundings. Check for broken glass, spilled fluids, or other hazards that could harm you. Try to avoid those things.
Before moving, you want to be sure any injury you may have won’t be aggravated by the effort to stand. If you are unable to stand on your own, you need to get help. Try calling out to get the attention of anyone who is in the house with you.
If you are alone, try to get a neighbour’s attention by banging on the floor or a nearby wall. Using a solid object, such as a remote or a book, will make a louder noise and could attract more attention. Getting closer to a window or door could increase the chance of being heard. Try not to strain your voice if you’re calling out.
You can try sliding yourself to a phone, being careful not to over-exert yourself. Take breaks when you feel tired. If you can reach the phone, or carry your cell phone with you, contact a loved one, your caregiver, or a neighbour to come assist you.
Be sure to push the help button if your home is equipped with a medical alert system. Remember, the Response Associates are there to get you the help you need.
While you are waiting for help to arrive, find a position that is as comfortable as possible. If a pillow is within reach, place it underneath your head to ease any discomfort. You can use any object that will elevate your head.
It is important to keep yourself warm to avoid hypothermia. Cover yourself with something that will warm you—a blanket, a jacket or other article of clothing. Even a rug can help to keep your body temperature up.
To avoid getting stiff and ease circulation, try to move regularly, especially your joints. As you move, take care not to aggravate any injury you may have.
Protect Your Independence
Preparing for a fall before one has happened can boost your confidence. It sounds a bit like preparing for the worst, but having a plan can help you remain calm if a fall occurs. Also consider practice the proper way to get up from a fall with a loved one or caregiver. By learning these steps in advance, you’ll be confident knowing how to do get up after a fall without risk of further injury.
Here are some points to consider in your plan If you do experience a fall and discover you can’t get up:
- Have an arrangement with a neighbour that acts as a signal of your well-being. You could raise the blinds on a window every morning, or turn off your porch light. If the light is still on in the morning or the blinds are down, the neighbour will know to come see if you’re okay.
- Have a check-in friend. Every day at an agreed-upon time, you will call your friend (or the reverse). You don’t have to chat long—just a quick call to say you’re both fine. If the call doesn’t happen, either your friend checks up on you or phones a loved one to do it.
- Make sure someone has a key to your home. This will allow that person to have access to help if you fell and can’t get up.
Have a way to contact help in every room – ideally a medical alert system that has fall detection capability. Although having a cell phone on you all the time is better than having nothing, it’s still not optimal – you’re better off having a device that can detect a fall on its own when you are not able to initiate the call for help.