Life After the First Fall: How to Plan if Your Aging Parent Has Fallen

Last updated on March 18, 2024

When your aging parent experiences a fall, it can be a frightening and challenging situation. Beyond the immediate concerns for their immediate health and safety, you’ll need to focus on ensuring their well-being moving forward.

From addressing medical needs and making necessary adjustments in their home to considering professional care options, proactive planning is essential to provide the best possible support for your aging parent after a fall or mishap.

Practical Steps and Considerations

Roughly 55 percent of falls happen inside the home, and an additional 23 percent occur near the home. The threat of falling can feel overwhelming and unavoidable. Falling is the most prominent warning sign of further falls to come—after falling once, you’re twice as likely to fall again.

Physical injuries are a serious peril when it comes to falls. Falls are risk factors for fractures, concussions, broken hips, and more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • One in four seniors falls each year
  • One in five falls leads to a severe injury
  • 2.8 million seniors visit emergency rooms each year for injuries sustained in falls, and roughly 800,000 are hospitalized
  • Upwards of 95% of fractured hips result from falls
  • Traumatic brain injuries are most frequently caused by falls

Falls are a mental affliction, too. Fewer than half of seniors who fall tell their doctor. And even one fall—much less multiple—often make seniors anxious or fearful about continuing about their daily tasks, which can then lead to increased isolation and a diminished sense of self-reliance and safety, even at home.

Here are five practical steps and considerations to helping you navigate the complexities of caring for an aging parent following a fall;

1. Take the First Fall Seriously
Given the fact that one fall doubles the chance of another fall, the best time to take the issue head-on is immediately following that first incident. This may sound straightforward, but it's a mentally and emotionally stressful time for the senior and family caregivers, and it can be easy to dismiss the severity of the incident or to think it was just a one-time occurrence.

2. Know the Common Causes of Falls
Understanding contributing factors to the incident can help to comprehend it and move forward with prevention. To consider:

  • Weakness, particularly in the lower body
  • Medications that may cause dizziness
  • Poor eyesight
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor balance
  • Clutter, tripping hazards (like throw rugs), uneven surfaces and poor lighting
  • Shuffling when walking
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Hearing loss
  • Poorly fitting footwear
  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D in diet

3. Enlist a Professional Caregiver Trained in Fall Prevention
Professional Caregivers can bring an expert eye to a home to help eliminate falling hazards like those listed above—and to help ensure that your loved one is taking their prescribed medication correctly, exercising, etc. Seniors are often more receptive to lifestyle change suggestions from outside pros than from friends and family, seeing it more as expert advice than criticism. In addition to providing a safety assessment of the home, a professional caregiver’s regular visits can serve as reminders for activity—and in a worst-case scenario, another set of eyes checking in on your loved one.

4. Encourage Exercises That Improve Balance and Strength
Muscle weakness is the number one risk factor for falls, and balance and strengthening exercises are a simple and essential part of fall prevention. Check with a doctor or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program, but some great starting exercises to build strength, balance and flexibility include:

  • Standing tall with heels, hips, shoulders and head against the wall for a minute or two helps with posture and balance.
  • Standing tall (shoulders over hips over heels) with hands holding onto a countertop and lifting one knee at a time and then the other, as many times as possible, for two minutes. Once comfortable with this, lift and hold a knee for up to 30 seconds, repeating with the other leg
  • Walking in a straight line (use the lines of hardwood floors or tile to help) for a few steps forward, working up to greater distances and including walking backward
  • Purchasing a small pedal to sit in a chair and pedal for 10 minutes per day

5. Acknowledge the Mental and Emotional Strain of Falling
Fear of falling again is a common and often debilitating after-effect of a fall. Seniors begin avoiding walking (or holding onto walls for balance and looking at their feet) and any activity, both in the home and in social settings. This only exacerbates the risk factors for falls: Muscles get weaker, balance and flexibility rapidly decrease, and they can experience extreme loneliness and listlessness, emotional factors that make it significantly harder for them to be motivated to make improvements like exercise.

With the right support, your aging parent can recover from the physical and emotional injuries they sustained from a fall. Learn how a professional caregiver can help by contacting Visiting Angels to schedule a free home care consultation today.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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