Benjamin Franklin hit the nail on the head: An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to noticing and addressing mobility issues in older adults and the fall risks associated with them, prevention is crucial. Older adult falls account for 3 million emergency room visits, 300,000 hip fractures, and 32,000 deaths each year, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
To help prevent falls in seniors and minimize fall-related injuries, be on the lookout for any of these warning signs that an older loved one might be experiencing mobility issues:
- Feeling dizzy or off balance. Dizziness and issues with balance can arise from a variety of diagnosed or undiagnosed health conditions or from taking certain types of medications. It is important to find out from a physician what is causing issues with dizziness or balance and to address those issues right away.
- Struggling to sit or stand. It’s important to pay attention to whether an older adult finds it difficult to either stand up from a seated position or to sit back down again. Issues with standing or sitting can be caused by a variety of factors and also should be addressed with the older adult’s doctor so that the cause and appropriate modifications can be understood.
- Skipping physical activity. Another warning sign of fall risk is noticing that an older adult who previously participated in regular exercise is now choosing a more sedentary lifestyle. Balance issues can be caused by muscle weakness or exhaustion, which can lead to difficulties with mobility.
- Steering clear of stairs. An older adult who appears to be getting around just fine but is avoiding going up or down stairs may be fearful of falling as a result of a recent change in confidence regarding mobility and unsteadiness. This also signals a need for an assessment by the older adult’s doctor.
One easy and effective method to gauge mobility and fall risk in seniors is the TUG (Timed Up and Go) test. The test should be carried out on a frequent basis in order to identify trends. The TUG test looks like this:
- Place a sturdy chair against a wall.
- Mark off a distance of ten feet from the chosen wall.
- Have the older adult sit in the chair.
- When you tell them to go, start a timer, and have the person stand, walk to the 10’ mark, turn around, come back and sit down again.
Make sure to stand close by as the older adult performs the test to provide support if necessary. Track the results during a period of time and share with his/her doctor for guidance. Read more about the TUG test and find a downloadable one-page assessment sheet here.
If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s time engage in a conversation with your loved one and their physician about fall prevention for seniors. Let the older adult know that you’re concerned, and schedule an appointment for a check-up with his/her doctor. Implementing some simple mobility aids could result in tremendous improvement in maintaining independence and safety, with a secondary benefit of improving confidence.
Connect with JFS Care at 213-383-2273 for additional fall prevention tips for older adults, and to learn more about options for elder home care in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Our professional caregivers are available to provide care management and home care services to improve quality of life for an older adult you love. Please see our full service area to find our team of caregiving professionals in your community.