EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 9, 2014

Falls in old age can be prevented with care

Q: My elderly father (92 years old) fell outside of his home recently and it took him 15 minutes to get up off the ground. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt. My mother was unaware of his fall and none of the neighbors noticed. He does use a cane but it obviously didn’t make a difference. What can we do to prevent further incidents such as this?

A: One in three older adults (65+) fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in this age group. While these statistics may be alarming falls are not an inevitable aspect of aging, but can be prevented if people take action. Even if someone is not injured the fall should not be ignored. It is extremely important for the incident to be reported to the individual’s primary care physician.

Medical personnel should review medications for possible side effects of dizziness. Vision should be checked on a yearly basis. It is often recommended anyone wearing bifocals or multi-focal glasses to have a pair of single vision distance lenses for walking outside or climbing stairs. The physician may be able to recommend physical therapy and a home evaluation to identify tripping hazards. The type of cane your father is using may not be adequate and other walking aids such as a quad cane or walker may be advisable.

A Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) is definitely suggested for anyone in a similar situation to your father’s. There are numerous models available, some can be purchased and others rented on a monthly basis. The transmitter can be worn around the neck, on the wrist, belt or in a pocket. Once the device is activated a call would go directly to one or more emergency numbers. It is important to find out the distance the signal would carry from the model for anyone who spends time out in their yard.

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