Fall risk assessment is an important part of keeping our aging parents safe and able to live with more independence. Luckily, there are tools for fall risk assessment that we can turn to.
You can take a cue from hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care centers by using a checklist form of possible dangers.
When four or more questions on the list are not “checked off”, this can mean there’s a possible falling hazard that should be corrected. Things in the assessment to consider include whether your aging parent...
- is weak,
- has vision problems,
- can follow instructions,
- or needs help using the toilet.
Other considerations are...
- their age (whether they are over 70),
- whether they have fallen in the past, and
- whether they are often confused.
You should also consider the medications your parents are taking, as they, too, can affect their walking ability. Be especially aware of medications that...
- can cause drowsiness, like antihistamines or sedatives, or
- that increase their need to use the toilet (diuretics, or water pills ), and
- medications like insulin, that could change their blood glucose levels, making them dizzy and unstable;
Antiseizure medications, blood pressure pills, and other medicines could also affect one’s walking ability.
Be mindful of any balance issues your aging parents may have while standing or walking, and of their walking habits.
- Do they often lurch forward or sway?
- Can they keep their balance while turning?
- Do they often need to use a walker or cane?
- Do they lean on furniture while they move about the room?
The ‘Hendrich II Falls Risk Model’ was developed by The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, New York University, College of Nursing. It can be a tool to assess the risk of falls in older adults. You can find it through several sites online as yet another resource for fall prevention.
Some fall risk assessment forms you can find online note whether a person’s blood pressure drops and whether their heart rhythm changes between lying down and standing. Certain illnesses can make walking and standing difficult, such as CVA, Parkinson’s, vertigo, high blood pressure and those that cause seizures. Whether or not your parent has arthritis or osteoporosis may also have an effect on their risk for falling. Naturally, amputees are at greater risk of falling.
Those who use equipment such as oxygen tanks or compressors or machines that have lengths of tubing run the risk of tripping and falling over the equipment itself, its electrical cord or any tubing that’s attached.
Other important considerations are how your aging parent uses a cane or walker (if they use one) and whether they use it consistently.
Other, more obvious, dangers you should note are the condition of the floors where your parent lives, and whether the home has rugs, stairs, or electrical wires crossing their path that may lead to trips and falls- especially at night in the dark.
Too often, a rapid decline in an aging person’s condition begins with a fall. But, with common sense and an eye for hidden dangers, falls can be prevented, ensuring that your parent’s risk of falling is as low as it can be.
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