Safety for seniors: preventing falls, risk factors and how to help

Independent living helps maintain a senior citizen’s dignity and quality of life. However, it must also be noted that they could be at risk for certain hazards in their home. If your elderly relative isn’t living in a frail centre or retirement home, it’s important to be proactive when it comes to their ensuring their safety. Reports reveal that falls are amongst the most common and dangerous injuries that seniors face. Bloom and medical partner, Momentum Health4Me, discuss how you can help prevent falls for seniors and keep them secure in their homes, with these safety tips for seniors.

How to prevent falls for seniors

The World Health Organisation reports that adults over the age of 60 suffer from the greatest number of falls annually. Sadly, many seniors don’t realise their home is unsafe, especially if they’ve lived in the house or apartment for many years. They may also be unaware of their deteriorating health or limited capabilities. This is the reason why it’s advisable for younger friends, relatives and concerned community members to take a proactive approach to ensure home safety for seniors. It’s also advisable for elderly people to have good health insurance cover as they are at risk for developing chronic conditions. Discover some of the benefits of health insurance.

Most common health concerns for seniors

Some of the most common health problems that affect elderly people are some of the following diseases and conditions:

  • Arthritis. A degenerative disease that causes painful inflammation of the joints. The most common areas that are affected are the hands, fingers, feet, hips, knees and lower back.
  • Cardiovascular Disease. This is an umbrella term that relates to all diseases and conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Older adults tend to suffer most from high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and heart failure.
  • Respiratory Diseases. This includes recurring infections, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema or chronic bronchitis) that makes breathing very difficult.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is a brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills, rendering the patient unable to complete simple tasks.
  • Osteoporosis is a condition where one’s bones become brittle and fragile due to diminished bone density or low calcium levels. The condition tends to affect more women than men due to the hormonal changes that women undergo during menopause. Patients with osteoporosis are particularly susceptible to falls.
  • Influenza and pneumonia. Both these conditions affect the lungs. Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the lungs, which become filled with fluid or pus, while influenza is a contagious viral infection affecting the ears, throat and lungs.
  • Obesity relates to a condition where one’s weight exceeds the body mass index recommendation for your height. Health complications can arise due to obesity, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

How can we keep seniors safe? Find out with these 6 tips

1. Prevent fall hazards. Conduct an inspection of your senior citizen’s home to assess what items or areas might constitute a fall hazard. Minimise the risk by removing things like decorative carpets or mats, unnecessary clutter, or stretching extension cords. Prevent falls even further by installing grab bars for added stability and mobility. Ensure that your elderly relative wears non-slip footwear indoors or makes use of a walker or crutch.

2. Emergency numbers. Seniors can become confused or frightened during an emergency, which is why you need a fail-safe plan when it comes to calling for assistance. Ensure all the emergency contact details are easy to find. Other numbers that you should include are:

  • The local ambulance service
  • Local police service or private security company
  • Their local GP

You could even set up a ‘call display’ option for them on their cellphone. Otherwise, sign-up for a medi-alert service, which is a personal alarm, that will issue your elderly loved one with the resources to push a button for assistance.

3. Fire-proof the home. Seniors can become neglectful about basic hazards in their homes, which could result in a fire. Reduce this risk by installing smoke detectors in all the major rooms, especially the kitchen. Check that electrical cords and appliances are in good working order. Any frayed cords should be removed and replaced. Avoid the use of candles in a senior home. While load-shedding can be a problem, it’s advisable to have a rechargeable emergency lamp instead of an open flame. Likewise, keep an eye on heaters. Make sure they are turned off and not too close to flammable items like bedding, linen or curtains. Ensure that all burnt-out light bulbs are replaced and that an electrician is called out to check on any faulty electrics.

4. Safeguard the bathroom. This can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the home because it’s slippery. Your elderly loved one may also experience difficulties getting in or out of the bathtub, which could cause a fall. Install grab bars in key locations for added stability. Get some rubber, non-slip mats to place in the shower or in the tub for added grip, add a nightlight in the bathroom for visibility and attach a hand-held showerhead, which makes cleaning easier. If your loved one has limited mobility issues, you may want to consider getting a raised toilet seat.

5. Fall-proof the stairs. Stairs can pose quite a problem for senior citizens. Conditions, like arthritis, make it difficult for them to climb up and down and other medical conditions, like osteoporosis, make a fall very dangerous. Ensure the stair railings are very secure and strong, and that the stairs are clear from any clutter. You may even want to consider investing in a stairlift.

6. Keep in touch. One of the most important things that you can do for seniors who are living independently is to check on them regularly. Phone calls are always appreciated but an in-home visit will allow you to conduct an evaluation of the home and your loved one’s physical and mental condition.

Health insurance for quality medical services

Bloom understands that we all want to keep our families and loved ones safe, especially during these challenging times. Momentum Health4Me is an excellent health insurance choice for seniors, offering affordable cover that will ensure they have access to top-quality healthcare services. Medical insurance options are available in Momentum Health4Me Gold, Silver and Bronze plans. Contact our offices to make an appointment with one of our trained brokers and get a free quote for health insurance prices and plans.

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You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom Financial Services website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

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