Anatomy of a fall
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Anatomy of a fall

Accidents are an inevitable part of life, but when they involve seniors, the stakes can feel much higher.

The first time your parents or seniors suffer a fall can be frightening -- for them and for you. Unfortunately, older adults who have fallen before are likely to fall again. The statistics are alarming, with nearly half of those aged 83 and older experiencing a fall, and falls being the leading cause of fatalities among older adults. When a senior has an accident, especially if it involves a fall and a potential head injury, knowing what to do next is crucial. Here's a comprehensive guide on immediate and long-term steps to take, along with additional insights to enhance the care and safety of our seniors.

Immediate Actions After a Fall

The moments following a fall are crucial, and the first step is to assess the situation. If a senior has sustained a head injury, it's vital to seek medical guidance immediately. Minor bumps or bruises can be treated with first aid, but head injuries require a cautious approach.

Ask them to stay still: Before attempting to help your loved one up, ensure they haven't sustained a head, neck, or back injury. Even mild traumatic brain injuries can have serious consequences, so it's crucial to err on the side of caution. If the head injury is severe, call an emergency ambulance hotline 1669 or 191.

Discover the cause of the fall: Investigate the circumstances surrounding the fall, considering factors like recent meals, medication, or any physical sensations your loved one experienced before falling. Understanding the cause helps in taking appropriate preventive measures.

Watch for Head Injury Symptoms: If medical professionals advise against immediate hospitalisation, keep a close eye on your loved one for 24-48 hours. Look for symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, confusion, or changes in behaviour that might indicate a worsening condition.

Post-Fall Doctor Visit

After stabilising your loved one, it's essential to schedule a visit to their primary care doctor. This visit serves as an opportunity to address potential underlying causes and reduce the risk of future falls.

Common underlying causes: Discuss potential contributors to falls, such as dehydration, anaemia, or weakness caused by infections.

Blood pressure check: Evaluate blood pressure while sitting and standing, especially if your loved one reported feeling light-headed or weak before the fall.

Blood tests: Request comprehensive blood tests to identify new underlying causes that may contribute to falls.

Medication review: Bring a detailed list of medications, including dosages, for the doctor to review. Adjustments or eliminations may be necessary to minimise fall risks.

Vision and inner ear check: Ensure the doctor checks for vision issues and inner ear problems, both of which can affect balance.

Heart and neurological conditions: If falls persist, investigate potential heart or neurological conditions that may exacerbate the issue.

Preventing future falls involves addressing environmental factors and promoting overall well-being.

Home safety: Evaluate and modify the home environment to reduce hazards, including removing rugs, decluttering, improving lighting, and installing safety equipment.

Senior living communities: Consider transitioning to a senior living community, where safety measures are prioritised. These communities offer tailored support, including handrails, grab bars, fall risk assessments, and staff trained in fall prevention.

Physical wellness: Encourage regular physical activity to improve balance, muscle strength, and flexibility. Many senior living communities provide daily opportunities for exercise.

Healthy nutrition: Ensure your loved one receives a balanced diet, as nutrition plays a crucial role in bone and muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls.

Medication management: Address medication-related risks by entrusting professionals in senior living communities to manage prescriptions, ensuring proper dosage adherence.

Daily life assistance: Opt for living arrangements that facilitate day-to-day activities, minimising the risk of falls. Staff in senior living communities can discreetly assist with tasks like dressing, grooming, and meal preparation.

Cognitive support: For those experiencing cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's, consider specialised care in memory care communities. These communities provide secure environments, trained staff, and tailored programming to manage cognitive abilities.

Lastly, navigating the aftermath of a fall involving a senior loved one requires a thoughtful and comprehensive approach. By taking immediate actions, scheduling post-fall doctor visits, and implementing long-term fall prevention measures, we can provide the care and support necessary to enhance the safety and well-being of our ageing family members.

Tatat Bunnag is a feature writer for the Bangkok Post's Life section.

Tatat Bunnag

Life Writer

Tatat Bunnag is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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