Posts Tagged "fall"

Emergency Response…Or Crisis Mode?

Posted by on Mar 11, 2021 in Health Emergencies |

As family members age, it’s more and more likely that we’ll be faced with an “eldercare event” - a sudden, dramatic change in the status quo, usually related to health. Here are some common examples of what can happen: A frail older person, living alone, suffers a fall, a stroke, or a heart attack and is hospitalized. She must now leave the hospital but cannot safely live alone any more. A healthy spouse who cares for a frail senior dies suddenly. Family members are scattered throughout the country or live overseas. Your parent lives alone, several provinces away. Your last few phone conversations have seemed strange; your parent is rambling and, occasionally, incoherent. Your phone rings at work. The local hospital informs you that Dad has been admitted to the emergency department. We hope we will never have to deal with situations like these, but it’s unrealistic to believe either that it won’t happen to us or that “we’ll deal with it when something happens”. When eldercare events occur, it helps everyone if we respond and cope well. Otherwise, we may become part of the problem, not part of the solution. Here are four steps you can take to prevent an emergency turning into a crisis:  Acknowledge your emotions Even if you have thought about how you might deal with an elder care event, you cannot predict how you will feel when it happens. Elder care events can involve complex decisions, time pressures and the need to navigate unfamiliar situations and new relationships. Aim to reach a level of calm before responding to the news. Everyone can benefit from deep breathing and a few quiet minutes to wait for the adrenalin rush to subside. Change your self-talk if it’s making you more anxious. Self-talk can either increase your panic, or guide you to a more reasoned response. Tell yourself:  “I am calm and capable. I have handled other difficult situations and I will handle this one, too.” Remember the resources you have drawn on in the past to calm yourself and make reasoned decisions. Assemble your support team. Who might I ask to come and stay with me? Who can give me emotional support on the phone? Who else do I need to call to let them know what is happening? Who can I contact to help me figure out what the right thing is to do for someone else? Implement an Emergency Plan you have worked out in advance. Make a checklist. Some situations to consider: At home: Will you need someone to look after your children or anyone else at home that counts on your care? At work: Notify your supervisor. Ideally, you will have had a prior discussion that helps them prepare for this type of event. If you are at a distance from the event, who will you communicate with to monitor the situation? Will you need to travel? What will you take with you? What will you need if you may spend long hours in hospital? Can you pre-pack an emergency kit? What information and documents will you provide to help health care professionals?  Having a written plan, assembling your support team, and staying calm are important components of planning ahead for and managing an elder care event. © ElderWise Inc., 2013. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article,if you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents…and anyone wishing to do “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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Tips for Staying At Home…SAFELY

Posted by on May 15, 2021 in Safety Concerns |

This tipsheet focuses on safety measures you can take to: 1) Be prepared in case of a medical emergency at home. 2) Avoid or minimize the chances of a fall  For older persons living alone, a regular “check-in” system is our first line of defense.  Friends and neighbours who see or call each other daily are often the first to know if something is amiss. If you don’t answer the phone according to a normal schedule, who can look in on you (or your parent)? Make arrangements with a neighbor or close-by friend. Alternately, have a professional caregiver or paid companion check in. This friend, neighbor, or companion should also have contact details for one or more family members. Will there be set of keys left with someone (or at least at a known location) in case of serious concern? Many frail elderly persons use an emergency response system, connected to a live phone answering system, and usually worn around the wrist or as a pendant. Assuming the user is capable of triggering a call, this can be an extra safety precaution. Falls are one of the greatest risks for an older person; in fact, more than 40% of nursing home admissions can be traced back to a fall or complications from a fall. Even if the fall produces no serious physical consequences, the person who falls often becomes increasingly fearful and loses some confidence that they can move about safely. That can lead to a downward spiral of less activity, loss of strength, and increased vulnerability to further falls.  That’s why a “safety audit” of all rooms in the house is a prudent idea. Following are some safety aids to evaluate: Bathroom:  Use grab bars, rubber mats, “telephone” shower heads, shower chairs/benches, raised seats to minimize slips and falls in the bathroom. Kitchen: Increase use of small appliances rather than stovetop and oven Buy small appliances with automatic shut-off features Place items within easy reach, avoid lifting/carrying heavy dishes All rooms: Reduce clutter, minimize objects on floor Increase lighting, including night lights Tidy up loose cords and wires Re-assess furniture, e.g. chairs too low, sharp edges, wobbly items Remove throw rugs, secure carpet edges. Can you easily see flooring transitions (e.g, tile to carpet)? Outdoors: Repair cracked sidewalks Install handrails on stairs and steps, or install a ramp Trim shrubbery and trees along pathways Ensure adequate lighting by doorways and along walkways Stairs: Plan how to reduce/minimize stair use Install hand rails on both sides of staircases at elbow height Always have one hand free to grasp handrails Secure or remove carpet on treads of stairs Increase lighting in stairways Remove any rugs at the top/bottom of stairs General Safety: Wear properly fitting shoes/slippers with non-slip sole Remove reading glasses when walking, especially up/down stairs Install a telephone extension in the bedroom, kitchen, and in or near the bathroom Never rush to answer the door or phone Understand side-effects of alcohol and medications, such as dizziness For more ideas, visit this webpage and review items in the right-hand column:

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Seniors in the Emergency Room

Posted by on Sep 9, 2021 in Health Emergencies |

  Each year in Canada, thousands of seniors arrive at a hospital emergency department (ER) - either by ambulance or accompanied by adult children. Many will make more than one visit within the year. About 50% of patients coming to the ER are over 65 years of age. The major reasons that older adults are taken to the ER include: falls; stroke; heart attack; infections; and delirium (acute confusion). For your parent, it may be more a matter of “when” rather than “if” this happens, so being prepared - with the right information and expectations - is key. It can help you to ease your way through the crisis, know what questions to ask, and to take care of your parent and yourself.  What to Expect The ER is often busy and seemingly chaotic. The experience can be frightening and exhausting - for the senior and for family members. You may be there for several hours and even more than one day!  All this time, your parent may be lying on an uncomfortable gurney. The ER might be drafty, too cold, or too hot.  It is likely to be noisy 24-hours a day. Staff is often operating at full speed to cope with the continued flow of patients, many with urgent or life-threatening illness or injury. Most will welcome your willingness to help a family member. What You Can Do Whatever caused the trip to the hospital is likely to interfere with your parent’s ability to speak and act for themselves. You can provide needed information, be a valuable advocate, provide comfort, and help prevent health complications such as delirium and deconditioning. It’s important to look after yourself at this demanding time, even though it may seem appropriate to set your own needs aside. Although the health crisis might pass within a day or so, what follows might require your ongoing support for a long time. For more details, consult the ElderWise e-guide Seniors in the ER Vol. 5, No. 11, © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.  ...

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Safety on Stairs

Posted by on Sep 9, 2021 in Safety Concerns |

Declining muscle strength and increasing physical limitations mean that using stairs becomes more challenging for seniors. That’s why they are more likely to fall than younger adults. Seniors who fall are more likely to sustain serious injuries, including fractures. Falling may also cause seniors to lose confidence in their abilities, which can lead to social withdrawal.  Up to 15% of all falls by seniors involve stairs. Sustaining a fall also increases the chances of a senior moving into a nursing home. FORTY PER-CENT of care home admissions are fall-related, and an independent senior who experiences a fall is 3 times more likely to move into a care home. Here are some safety tips from the Public Health Agency of Canada. You can use them to have a conversation with your parents about these risks…and ways to prevent falls. Hazards on Stairs:  Lighting, Handrails, and General Conditions Are the stairs well lit, with light switches at the top and bottom?  If not, explore ways to install extra lighting. Is there a handrail?  Is it well secured and at the proper height? Hint: the height should allow the senior to use the handrail comfortably, with the elbow slightly bent. Should you have two handrails - one on each side of the stairs?  Check the condition of floor coverings on stairs. Does your tile or linoleum have  loose edges?  Is your carpet securely fastened?  Consider replacing carpet with rubber stair treading. Can you see the edge of each stair clearly?  If not, consider adding a contrasting color on edges - either with paint or adhesive strips. Change some habits to increase safety on stairs: Wearing glasses - or not? Do you wear your reading glasses when taking the stairs?  Are you still getting used to those new bifocals?  Make sure you can see the stairs clearly, going up and going down. Proper footwear. Are those old slippers comfortable but unsafe?  Also, stocking feet can slip on stairs.  Try out a new pair of comfortable shoes with proper supports and grips. Carrying. Do you carry objects in both hands?  Keep one hand on the rail, and make an extra trip instead. Use a laundry bag rather than a laundry basket. Clutter. Do you often place things on the stairs - to take up on your next trip?  Obstacles on stairs can cause or contribute to a fall.  Some factors that can contribute to a fall on the stairs may be out of anyone’s control and the list of dangers may seem long.  But the risks of using stairs can be offset by the benefits of weight-bearing exercise: maintaining some muscle strength and helping keep bones strong.  So, don’t avoid the stairs. Instead, manage the risks by removing danger factors and employing safe stair practices. Here’s another resource on this topic:   Steps to Safer Stairs:    Vol.3, No.3 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

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Aging Well: Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by on Sep 7, 2021 in Uncategorized |

No known substance can extend life, but we can improve our chances of staying healthy and living a long time. First, what NOT to do: Here are ten common health care mistakes seniors make, according to the Institute for Health Care Advancement: 1.  Driving when it is no longer safe 2.  Fighting the aging process and its appearance 3.  Failing to discuss intimate health problems with your health care provider 4.  Not understanding what the doctor says about the problem or treatment plan 5.  Disregarding the serious potential of a fall 6.  Not having a system for managing medications 7.  Not having a single primary care physician 8.  Not seeking medication attention when warning signs occur 9.  Not participating in prevention programs 10. Not asking loved ones for help The news isn’t all bad, though. The National Institute on Aging offers its own Top 10 Tips for healthy aging. We have reproduced this list below, and included in parentheses previous ElderWise Info articles covering related topics. Top Ten Tips for Healthy Aging 1. Eat a balanced diet, including five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. (Challenges to Healthy Eating) 2. Exercise regularly. (Osteoporosis and Bone Health, Exercise for Healthy Hearts) 3. Get regular health check-ups. (Why Geriatrics and Gerontology Matter) 4. Don’t smoke (it’s never too late to quit). 5. Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. (Safety on the Stairs)  Always wear your seatbelt in a car. 6. Keep up contact with family and friends. Stay active through work, play, and community. (Seniors Who Volunteer) 7. Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold. (Heat Stroke) 8. If you drink, moderation is the key. When you drink, let someone else drive. (Are you a Safe Driver?) 9. Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify budgeting and investing. Plan long-term housing and money needs. (Long Term Care Planning and Long Term Care Terminology) 10. Keep a positive attitude toward life. Do things that make you happy. (Recording a Life Story, Keys to Enjoying Later Life) Both these lists are great “between the generations” conversation-starters, whether you are in mid-life or a senior. See the related ElderWise Infos for resources and suggestions to bring enhanced health and greater longevity into your life.  Vol.3, No.16 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE...

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