So your Mom or Dad recently had a fall, and you're trying to figure out what happened so you can prevent it from happening again. We applaud you, being that prevention is the best way to keep your loved one at home and aging safely in place!
The following 10 questions should help guide you in figuring out what caused the fall so you can create a plan of action for prevention in the future.
First and foremost, we recommend you call your loved one’s doctor or take them to the emergency room immediately to get checked out. Even if no visible injury is noted, this will rule out any medical issues or injuries that need to be addressed.
What was your loved one doing?
Ask your loved one what they were doing when they fell. Sometimes, Mom or Dad will be able to tell you very specific things that can be easily resolved, such as “I was walking without my walker” or “I tripped over the rug.” Other times, your loved one can’t quite place what they were doing when they fell and will simple state “I’m not sure, I just lost my balance and fell.” If that’s the case, you will need to do a bit more detective work to figure out how to prevent future falls.
What was the time of day?
Note the time of day when the fall occurred. Perhaps it happened in the late evening on the way to the bathroom, and the lighting situation in the home needs to be reassessed. Perhaps it occurred right after Dad was getting up from his afternoon nap, and in the future he needs to be reminded to take his time in getting up as he is often groggy at this time of day.
Was a walker or cane being used properly?
If your loved one uses a cane or a walker in the home (or SHOULD be), note if they were using it at the time of the fall. If they admit they did not have their device with them, reinforce the importance of using a cane or walker at all times, no matter what. If you need to, get more than one to keep around the house.
What was Mom or Dad’s footwear?
If your loved one was wearing slippers, flip flops, slippery socks, or barefoot at the time of the fall, this could be the culprit. Be sure that Mom or Dad wears good shoes with supportive soles even around the house to ensure that they don't slip again.
Any tripping hazards?
If your loved one can tell you outright that the fall was caused when they tripped over something specific, plan to remove or store that item right away. However, you should also note any additional tripping hazards in the home and remove them to prevent future falls. Make sure all walking pathways are clear and remove furniture, electrical wires, and other objects that are in the way. And PLEASE remove any and all throw rugs in the home as they are a huge fall risk.
Any unusual symptoms?
Any unusual symptoms or behaviors before, during, or after the fall should be reported to your Mom or Dad’s doctor or a medical professional immediately. This could include loss of consciousness, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, confusion, etc. There could be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed.
Any recent changes in medications?
Medications and interactions between medications can cause all sorts of unusual side effects such as dizziness, decreased balance, and confusion - any of which could have led to the fall. Note if your loved one has had any recent changes in their medications, and talk to their doctor about your concerns immediately.
Were they able to get back up?
This should help you in figuring out an action plan for the future. If your loved one was unable or struggled to get themselves back up and no one was home at the time, consider getting a medical alert button or having more supervision in the home. Check out SecondSenior.com to see about getting affordable care when you can’t be there.
How does your loved one feel about the fall?
If your loved one now has an increased fear of falling, they may be limiting their involvement in activities. Encourage Mom or Dad to continue to participate in daily activities to reduce any decline in function, as long as they are performing them safely. You may need to provide more supervision or assistance with tasks for a little while until they get their confidence back.
What will the plan be for the future?
Make sure both you and your loved one are on the same page for preventing falls in the future. You can go out and buy a medical alert button, but if they don’t know how or can’t remember how to use it then it's no use to you. Be sure that all plans of action to prevent future falls are discussed and communicated clearly between you, your loved one, and anyone else that is involved in their care.
We hope that you found this post helpful in assessing any recent falls that your loved one has had, so that you can prevent them from happening in the future. Keeping Mom or Dad from falling means keeping them healthy, happy, and home.
Thank you for all you do for them as their family caregiver!