Just under nine million emergency room visits every year are attributed to accidental trips and falls, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. In fact, more than four times as many seniors die because of falls than any other age group. The truth is that nearly everyone suffers some decline in mobility during the aging process. However, there are ways to promote continued mobility — and the independence that goes along with it — in order to enhance the quality of life of your aging loved one.
The 411 on Mobility
If your parent or other aging loved one is experiencing increased difficulty with walking and/or rising from a seated position, you are likely witnessing a natural decline in mobility. But just because something is natural doesn't mean it can't be altered.
Whether mobility problems are caused by pain, weakness or a medical condition, there are ways to help your loved one get around better.
Conversely, failure to acknowledge and treat a mobility issue can lead to further debilitation.
Slips, Trips and Falls
The majority of mobility issues relate to slips, trips and falls. A simple way to prevent these incidents is by safety proofing the home environment. Carefully inspect each room for trip hazards, such as clutter, loose wires and cords. Ample lighting, meanwhile, helps ensure adequate visibility for safe passage throughout the home.
As the majority of injuries happen in the bathroom, be particularly vigilant when surveying this room. Bathroom safety aids, such as bath lifts grab bars, raised toilet seats, shower chairs, and walk in tubs, help promote safety while simultaneously offering a critical sense of independence.
Another way to avoid slips, trips and falls? Outfit your aging loved one in proper, well-fitting shoes. Skip the clogs, high heels, and slippers, and instead encourage your favorite senior to wear sturdy, rubber-soled footwear.
You are probably well aware of the many benefits of physical activity -- from enhanced heart health to weight control to lower blood pressure. But routine exercise is also a critical part of maintaining mobility. A fusion of strength training and cardiovascular exercise enhances strength and improves balance.
Alternatively, as your aging loved one exercises and develops strength, the more capable he becomes at maneuvering around potential trip hazards.
But it's not just physical health which is affected by routine exercise, it's also psychological well-being. The mere fear of falling — whether or not a fall has occurred — can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. This is a vicious cycle: the less active your aging loved one becomes, the more likely he is to fall.
The Role of the Family Physician
Be sure to consult with your loved one's health care provider if you notice any changes in mobility. In some cases, decreased mobility can be caused by medical problems, ranging from neurological conditions to vision or hearing impairment.
Furthermore, some medications also affect balance and mobility, so your loved one's physician should be able to identify any such causes.
A doctor can also offer suggestions about mobility aids, such as canes and walkers. If your loved one lives in a home with stairs, innovations like stairlifts offer safety and independence. Click here to find out more about how extra aids can help your aging parent or loved one.
Despite all best precautions, trips and falls can still occur. For seniors who live alone, medical alert services offer a valuable lifeline to help in an emergency....not to mention critical peace of mind for caregivers.
Aging is a fact of life, and mobility challenges go along with that. Caregivers who treat the situation proactively not only help promote a sense of security and independence, but also contribute to the overall quality of life of their aging loved ones.