November is National Family Caregiving Month and caring for your loved one means helping prevent a major cause of serious injuries -- falling.
Being a care partner for someone at a high risk of falling is both a gift of love and a challenge. I became keenly aware of acute fall risk as I was helping to care for my father following his radiation treatments, which caused him to weaken quickly. It’s important to remember that while there may be special circumstances, such as a cancer treatment or a chronic condition that can increase the risk of falling, falls are NOT a normal part of aging and they can be prevented.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Stay Independent Checklist can help to determine if your loved one is at risk for falling, and it is also available online. After completing the online Falls Free Check-up, you will receive a fall risk score and suggested next steps to reduce the risk of falling.
Here are some steps that you and your loved one can take together to prevent falls:
- Find a good balance and exercise program, such as tai chi.
- Find a program that can be enjoyed together or that perhaps a loved one can attend while the care partner enjoys some rest. If you aren’t sure what type of balance or exercise program is best, ask your health care provider.
- Talk to your health care provider. Share the results of the Falls Free Check-up above. Be sure to tell them if there has been a recent fall to understand why and to prevent another fall.
- Have a doctor or pharmacist review all medications regularly for side effects that could increase fall risk. Refer to this fact sheet and resource for a list of questions to ask about medications.
- Get vision and hearing checked every year.
- Create a safe home. As part of National Family Caregivers Month, invite family, friends or neighbors to do a home safety check together for support and to make it more fun. Ask for help in making changes or removing hazards.
- Talk to family and friends to get their help in staying safe.
Reference: NCOA 6 Steps to Prevent A Fall
The National Council on Aging has created a resource to help start a conversation about falls prevention called Let’s Talk About Falls. It includes helpful tips for how to start this often difficult conversation. There is also a Falls Prevention Conversation Guide for Caregivers which goes into more detail and helps you create a plan.
Connect with NC Falls Prevention Coalition and regional coalitions who bring together all types of people to prevent falls across the state. Visit ncfallsprevention.org and healthyagingnc.com for more resources. We can work together to prevent falls, especially for those we love.
Ellen Bailey is the co-chair of the NC Falls Prevention Coalition, NC Center for Health and Wellness