Falls among the elderly are one of the most common accidents that happen at home. The likelihood to falling increases with age, and women fall three times more than men.
The various factors that contribute to such falls are impaired vision, changes in gait and balance, medical problems, medication and environmental hazards.
Ageing affects the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to changes in lighting levels. Many old people suffer from glaucoma and cataracts. These conditions can affect visual fields and colour perception. Keep eyeglasses clean and ensure that they are in good working condition.
As a person ages, posture tends to worsen due to degenerative changes in the spine, loss of bone mass, and decreased muscle strength and flexibility, particularly in the back and legs. The change in the centre of gravity and balance increases the risk of falls, often resulting in fractures, which restrict mobility and further weaken the muscles.
Medical conditions and medication may pose another significant risk of falls. Dosage may have to be adjusted. Discuss with the attending doctor if the elderly person feels giddy after taking the drugs.
Many falls occur in the bathroom. Wet, slippery floors, uneven surfaces, curbs and steps and poor lighting are hazards that contribute to falls.
Many elderly people suffer from more than one medical condition, like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and arthritis, and need to take several types of medication.
Names of medicines are usually lung, and the packing and tablets may look similar. The labels are often very small and it is difficult enough for an educated young person to read and remember all the instructions let alone an old person, or a maid. The instructions for medicines prescribed by doctors are in English; however, the majority of our elderly do not read or write the language, nor do most foreign maids. The family must translate the instructions into a language that they can understand and follow.
There are good reasons why some medicines are taken at different times of the day, some before food and some after food. All instructions must be followed exactly.
Some medicines may cause side effects like vomiting, rashes or diarrhea. It is important to cheek with the doctor if there are side effects before continuing with the medicine.
Because invalids often have impaired ability to heal themselves, especially if there is a history of diabetes, even the smallest wounds should receive immediate and careful attention.
Keep all skin surfaces clean and thoroughly dried after washing. Areas where it tends to crease, especially the groin and joints, require special attention and must be well dried.
Elderly invalids with a history of diabetes must pay extra attention to their toes and nails. Any cracks or cuts may lead to infections with formation of pus. This is because the blood circulation to the feet, being the most extreme parts of the body may be poor. Any broken skin, if not treated at once, may get infected and become gangrenous. In other words, the tissue dies and the toes turn black. The poison in the blood will circulate to the rest of the body and the health of the invalid will be further compromised.