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Falls happen thousands of times every day among older adults. In fact, they are so common that they have become the leading cause of injury and injury death within the over 65 age group.
There are certain conditions that may increase the chances of having a fall as we get older, including vitamin D deficiency, weakness in the lower body, problems with vision, and the side effects of certain medications. In order to lessen the number of falls reported each year, there are some useful things you can do in the bedroom.
1. Install a Bed Rail
A lot of older adults experience a fall when they are getting in and out of bed, but this may be prevented through the use of a bed rail. These simple devices are installed directly between the mattress and the box spring and provide the user with something to hold onto as they transfer into and out of bed. This is a good choice for people who have problems with balance or are a little unsteady on their feet.
A bed rail can also be used to help the adult independently reposition themselves in bed, therefore, lessening the amount of help they need from caregivers and loved ones.
However, it is important to note that bed rails may not be suitable for those suffering from a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This is because there is a greater risk of the person becoming trapped or potentially getting caught and strangulated. If the user experiences confusion or a lack of muscle control, bed rails may also not be suitable. In this case, things like foam bumpers may be a safer option.
2. Use Bed Positioning Aids
Positioning a person in bed correctly may be the difference between them remaining safe where they are and falling out of the bed. These falls carry a high risk of injury such as broken bones but can easily be avoided.
As we have already discussed, the use of rails along the bed may not be suitable for some people, so opting for bed wedges provides additional safety when in bed. The person will be able to roll into a different position without the risk of falling out of bed.
Bed wedges are positioned either side of the sleeper and are soft and comfortable yet very supportive. They are ideal for elderly people who want the comfort and security of knowing that they won’t fall out of bed, and they come in a range of sizes.
3. Place a Bedside Fall Mat to Minimize Fall-Related Injuries
A lot of older adults are at risk of falling out of bed, and when this happens, there is a serious risk of injuries such as broken bones, cuts, and bruising. Not to mention the emotional trauma it can bring on.
While a fall mat will not prevent a senior from falling out of bed, it will provide a cushioned surface for them to land on, which will, in turn, reduce the risk of any serious injuries. These mats are made from high-density foam, which is designed to take the majority of the shock from the impact. Usually, these mats are designed to be used with low beds, which lessen the distance that the person would fall, further adding to the lowered risk of injury.
They can simply be placed along the side of the bed and feature an anti-slip backing to ensure that the person has stability when entering and exiting the bed. Moreover, many of these mats are designed with beveled edges making them suitable for wheelchair users.
4. Ensure Rugs & Carpets Have a Non-Slip Backing
Between 45-54% of falls in the home are caused by carpets and rugs, according to one study. For this reason, it is imperative to be aware of the dangers of loose or ill-fitting carpets and how amending this problem could be the key to lowering fall risks.
Where possible, we would advise limiting the use of non-fitted floor rugs, especially on hard floors like wood or tile, as these can slide around a lot. If you must use one, it is important to choose rugs that have a non-slip backing to keep them from moving around.
But even fitted carpets can pose a threat if they are not flat and without bumps or wrinkles. It’s important to regularly check for anything that could be a risk and take action to remedy this as needed.
5. Use a Bedside Commode
It’s not uncommon for us to lose control of our functions as we get older and as many as 13 million Americans have trouble with incontinence. When an older adult wakes up at night needing to use the bathroom, they are likely to rush their journey to avoid having an accident. However, in this hurry, there is a risk of tripping and falling. This is especially true when it is dark and the senior is unable to clearly see obstacles.
It makes sense then, that the shorter the journey to the toilet, the less chance there is of falling. Unless you have an en-suite bathroom that is very close to the bed, it may be worth considering purchasing a bedside commode as this will limit the distance you have to walk to the bathroom.
Even if the person makes it to the bathroom, they may have an accident on the hard floor which can then make it slippery. It is not uncommon for adults to have an incontinence episode and to then slip as a result. Using a commode in the bedroom vastly lowers these risks.
6. Install Motion-Activated Night Lights
One of the most serious risks for seniors when it comes to falling in the bedroom is a lack of ability to see. During the hours of darkness, obstacles may be hidden from view, particularly if the senior already has vision problems. But it can also be difficult for the older adult to find and use the light switches as this means them scrambling around in the dark even more than is necessary.
To counteract this problem you may consider installing motion-activated night lights. These lights can be used in darker areas as well as along corridors, down any steps, and in the bathroom. They feature a motion sensor that causes them to illuminate as the senior moves nearby, eliminating the need to search for the light switch.
Even the simple installation of these nightlights can drastically reduce the fear of falling and therefore improve sleep quality.
7. Use a Hospital Bed or Lower the Bed
Using a high bed naturally comes with a higher risk of falls as the senior will need to over-exert or overextend themselves when getting in and out of the bed. Not to mention the potential for serious injury is greater owing to the greater fall distance.
It is a good idea to opt for a lower bed, and this can be used in conjunction with other aids such as a bed rail and a fall mat, for optimum safety. However, you might decide to choose a hospital bed that often has features built-in such as rails to prevent falling, although these can be lowered when they are not in use, making it easy to get in and out of bed.
A hospital bed also has an electronic control that allows you to adjust the height of the bed. You can lower the bed when the person needs to get in and out or when they are sleeping, but it can be raised when a caregiver needs to perform care tasks, lessening the strain on their back.
Some beds also come with profiling options that allow you to adjust the angle and height of the feet and head. These are excellent for people who find it difficult to change positions.
Regardless of the type of bed you choose, it is good practice to place the bed next to a wall. This means that there is only one side that would pose a fall risk.
8. Eliminate Any Trip Hazards
Earlier, we talked about the importance of ensuring that the space was illuminated to help the senior avoid obstacles, but it’s essential to make sure that pathways are as clear as possible. This may mean rearranging furniture to ensure a clear path from the bed to the doorway and through to the bathroom or stairs. These paths should not have items left in them at any time. One of the biggest culprits is the throw pillow which is strewn from the bed at night and can be a trip hazard.
If there are loose power cords in walkways, these can be a very serious trip hazard, so cables should always be secured and well out of the way.
9. Use a Bed Exit Alarm System
It can’t always be easy for a caregiver to know when a person gets out of bed. However, through the innovative use of alarms, you will be alerted when your loved one leaves the bed. This will allow you to provide the right help whether that be escorting them to the bathroom or simply helping them back into bed.
There are several different types of bed exit alarms to choose from. The mattress alarm is placed under the fitted sheet and will respond when pressure changes. You might also choose a passive infrared alarm which creates an infrared barrier around the bed; when this is broken, the alarm will sound. Finally, there are string alarms. A box is mounted to the bed with a string that is attached to the sleeper. If they attempt to get out of bed, the string will detach and an alarm will sound.
These alarms are extremely good for vulnerable adults or those who may become confused, and there are also options to install motion sensor alarms in other parts of the home should the user become disoriented during the night.
There is also a selection of wearable alarms that come in the form of a bracelet or pendant. The senior can press the alarm in the event of a fall so that a caregiver can respond.
10. Keep Mobility Aids within Easy Reach
If a senior is attempting to get out of bed without their mobility aid, there is a much greater risk of them losing balance and falling. For this reason alone, it is essential to make sure that things like canes, crutches, and walkers are always as close to the bed as possible, preferably within arm’s reach. This may require rearranging furniture or moving items out of the way so the aids can be placed close by.
11. Have a Phone Next to the Bed
A lot of older adults do not have their caregivers living in the same house as them, or if they do, they may not always be able to attract attention when it is needed. Just like walking aids, it is incredibly important to make sure that there is a cell phone in easy reach of the bed so that the person can contact a friend, family member, or caregiver in the case of an emergency.
Of course, there may be a power outage when a phone cannot be charged so it’s important to provide the senior with backup. Most landlines will still work in the event of a power cut so make sure that there is a landline phone also within easy reach. You might also provide the senior with a power bank to charge the device when there is no mains electricity.
12. Perform Regular Balance Exercises
It is normal that, as we age, our muscles and bones become weaker, and this can affect our balance. A lack of balance is a major contributor to falls, so performing balance exercises to improve this may be a way of reducing that risk. These exercises will help to improve bone strength and develop muscle performance.
In addition to this, it has been shown in studies that performing these exercises may help to improve your reaction times and your coordination. In the event that you begin to stumble, you may be more easily able to regain control.
The following is one of the most simple yet effective types of balance exercise.
- Start by finding a surface such as a countertop that you can hold onto if you lose balance.
- Begin by standing with the feet shoulder-width apart, keeping the eyes forward. Try to maintain this position for ten seconds. As you get better, you can increase the length of time to thirty seconds.
- Now bring your feet together and repeat the above step.
- When you feel steady on both feet, lift one foot off the ground and go through the process again. Repeat with the other leg.
- You’ll notice that your balance begins to improve, and when you feel ready, you can complete the exercises with your eyes closed for more of a challenge.
13. Review Any Medications You’re Taking
Certain medications come with side effects that may make a senior unsteady on their feet or cause them to feel dizzy. It has been reported that some drugs pose a higher fall risk, and so the advice is given that seniors undergo regular reviews to ensure the safest and most effective method of medicating conditions.
Many surgeries offer wellness checks which will monitor various general health concerns such as blood pressure and weight as well as reviewing medication and assessing any side effects that may contribute to the chances of a person falling. If you are at all concerned about your ability to remain on your feet, it is imperative that you speak to your doctor.
Furthermore, you should avoid mixing medications unless your doctor has given you express permission to do so, and you should never auto-medicate any condition without first speaking to your healthcare provider.
14. Get Your Eye-Sight Tested Regularly
If you need to wear glasses to help you see then it is essential that they are placed on the bedside table so you can access them easily when getting out of bed. Poor vision is one of the leading causes of falls so it’s very important to have your sight regularly checked.
By doing this, you are allowing your optician to catch small changes in the eyes as early as possible so that your prescription is always kept up to date. You should also monitor your eyesight and look for signs that there may be problems such as double vision, dark patches, changes in your ability to see colors, and pain or redness in the eyes.