Dad is Falling
It seems like every other time I talk to my 80-year-old father, he reports that he has fallen. I live about two hours from him, which means I see him once or twice monthly. I am not sure why he falls so frequently, and though he tells me about the falls, I know little else. What is the best way to approach this situation?
We two-legged humans do fall down at times, and occasionally we get hurt. Falls in the elderly are more common and are of greater concern because of the increased likelihood of a fracture and consequent medical issues related to hospitalizations. They are also less able to get up and call for help when the fall occurs. Add that to the fact that many older adults are living alone.
The nice factor here is that your father is actually keeping you informed about his falls. You run a far greater risk with a parent that hides the truth or is in denial. Think of this information as a gift. Before you draw any conclusions, it is important to collect information about each fall. The reason you want to do this is because the solution could be quite simple.
Here are some examples of easy fixes for common falls:
- Salt the sidewalks.
- Use a cane.
- Install grab bars and place a non-skid mat inside/outside the shower stall.
- Procure a shower chair.
- Tidy-up or rearrange furniture to clear household walkways.
- Use a cane or walker at night when balance may be more compromised.
- Use a nightlight to ensure the path to the bathroom is visible.
When you collect information, write it down so that you can review the facts and compare each incident before you draw conclusions. This is where you become a bit like Sherlock Holmes.
Collect the following information about each fall:
- What time of day and where did the fall occur?
- What was he attempting to do at the time?
- What type of footwear did he have on?
- What type of surface did he fall on?
- Were there any medication lapses or changes?
- Was there alcohol involved?
- Have there been any recent changes in furniture placement?
- Have there been any changes in overall health?
- What happened just before the fall?
- What does he believe caused the fall?
Once you have collected the facts surrounding each fall, you will have a clearer picture of what is not causing your father’s falls. That information will also help you eliminate problems to fix. For instance, if he is always falling with good footwear on, his shoes may not be the problem. If he always falls in the house, slippery sidewalks are not your problem. I am sure you see my point on this. When you narrow the potential causes, you will likely start to see a pattern. He may be falling only outside, or when getting up from chairs, or when doing something that requires balance that he no longer has.
Now that you have information, have a detailed discussion with your father. Since he is telling you about his falls, I suspect he is a bit concerned and may welcome some suggestions. His physician may be able to offer advice or a therapy referral if needed. Being safe in his environment is important to his independence. Your time spent is important to your father’s independence, so get on it as quickly as you can.
"Do what you can, give it your best, and help Dad to hire the rest."
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