As a project manager, Naomi analyzed every approach and element of plans to find all unanticipated risks and hazards. She had to apply these skills to her role as caregiver after a frightening accident with her aunt Mary.
Mary began living with Naomi after she had shoulder surgery. Mary had complained that the pain medication doctors prescribed left her feeling dizzy and “woozy,” so Naomi was happy to welcome her favorite aunt into her townhome.
“I spent so much time making sure her bed was comfortable and that she felt at home,” Naomi said. “I totally missed how some of my things – the things you see every day -- could be dangerous for her.”
One day, Mary walked to the kitchen for a snack. Feeling groggy, she didn’t notice the accent rug in her path. She stepped on the rug, and it slid from under her on the hardwood floor. Mary fell to the ground, reinjuring her shoulder.
Falls like Mary’s happen regularly with older adults. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans age 65 and older are injured in falls each year. Emergency rooms treat adults in that age group for falls every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, someone from that age group dies from a fall.
The National Council on Aging raises awareness about falls in older adults using Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This year, it’s observed on Sept. 22 — the first day of the fall season.
For Naomi and Mary, Falls Prevention Awareness Day allows them to advise caregivers about making residences safe and protecting their loved ones with some thoughtful assessments and adjustments.
“When my aunt fell,” Naomi said, “it truly broke my heart. You can replace things, but you can’t replace the people you love. I’m just glad that she wasn’t seriously injured.”
Here are some tips the CDC offers to help caregivers like Naomi assess fall hazards and prevent accidents:
Improve the lighting in your home. Add lighting to dark areas and put in brighter bulbs. Florescent bulbs are bright and cost less to use.
Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or remove loose rugs from your home.
Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so loved ones can see the stairs better.
Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
Encourage older loved ones to do exercises that improve their balance and make their legs stronger.
Talk to your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist about their medicines, even over-the-counter ones. Some medicines can have side effects such as dizziness or lethargy.
Make sure loved ones have their eyes checked at least once a year and update their glasses as needed.
Encourage loved ones to wear shoes both inside and outside the house, and avoid going barefoot.