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Many people dismiss falls as a normal part of aging. That couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Stephanie Wierzbicka, manager of strategic health programs at ComForCare, a Michigan-based home care company. She took the opportunity this month, Fall Prevention Awareness Month, to share facts about falls.
Falls are the second leading factor for older adults needing long-term care, with dementia being the first. In order to both prevent and treat the aftermath of falls, it is key for both the patient and the caregiver to educate themselves about what causes falls in the first place, she said.
“Because a lot of individuals don’t even know what led to that fall in the first place, you’ll hear older adults say something like ‘whoops, I just tripped and fell. I felt woozy,’” she explained. “Usually there’s an underlying condition that led to that fall in the first place, so we have to first start by educating ourselves as to why that fall happened in the first place.”
After learning about the causes of falls — which could include things like hypotension, medication side effects and poor lower extremity strength — the second step for caregivers is to conduct a fall screening. This can be done by either a physician or a home care professional, she said.
Like blood pressure screenings to keep an eye on heart function, fall screening tools work similarly: to bring people up to speed with where they stand regarding fall risk factors.
Wierzbicka also shared some helpful tips on how to prevent falls, including making household repairs, looking for any environmental fall hazards such as poor lighting or uneven steps, placing a grab bar next to the older adult’s bed and ensuring that any carpeting is not loose or torn.
“Your home care provider is literally your perfect partner for fall risk management because we make falls a priority,” said Wierzbicka, “and when one occurs we make it more manageable.”