A Family Member’s Guide for Preventing Falls in Older Adults
The following is a true story; names have been changed to ensure privacy.
On a drizzly afternoon, Mrs. Donna Francis gathered her trash out of the garage to place on the corner of the front driveway. It was her usual routine on days the city collected garbage. The driveway skirted down, and the day’s rain had left the pavement slick. Before Mrs. Francis knew what was happening, she had slipped and fallen. She couldn’t get up.
A neighbor rushed to her aid, but when she tried to help, Mrs. Francis was unable to move. The neighbor pushed the button on Mrs. Francis’ medical alert necklace, and within moments an ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital.
Mrs. Francis was startled. Her family worried she had suffered a heart attack because of severe chest pains. The hospital ruled it out as stress and anxiety that accompanied the aches she was feeling after a scary situation.
“She would have probably been on the ground until someone drove by and noticed her,” Cheryl Francis, Donna’s daughter said.
As someone who works in a hospital she knows first hand of the dangers of older adults falling. Oftentimes they trip over everyday items in their homes and end up on the floor until someone realizes they’ve been injured. She’s seen patients come into the emergency room in ‘real bad’ shape because they had been on the floor overnight.
Mrs. Francis had always been reluctant to get an alert pendant; she didn’t think she needed it. After a previous fall in the garage where she didn’t sustain injuries, she yielded to her daughter’s nudge to wear a device. Now, Mrs. Francis is extremely grateful to have had it during this recent fall.
“I don’t know if she would have chosen to have it on her own.” Cheryl says, “This one incident forever paid for it as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s well worth the money spent just for the peace of mind that when she’s there alone she can get help really quickly if she needs it.”
Falls are More Common Than You Think
The CDC reports that every 13 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall, and every 20 minutes a fall related death occurs. Horror stories in the news tell of people who’ve fallen and wait hours for assistance.
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI), both fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults, broken bones or hips, and major health issues like stroke or heart attack.
Large hospital bills stack up, and falling leaves victims scared. They begin limiting or completely halting activities to avoid recurrence. When a person is less active, they become weaker, leading to further incidents—an unfortunate cycle.
Medical alert pendants are exceptional aids for older adults in case of a fall, but they’re a solution after an incident occurs. It’s vital to take proper safety measures to avoid a fall entirely.