Q: I’ve taken steps to make my elderly mom’s home as “fall proof” as possible but want to prepare her with what to do if she does fall when she is home alone. Any tips?
An accidental fall can be scary, especially if your mom lives alone. For anyone who does fall while home alone, the first thing to do, is to first take a few breaths and stay as calm as possible. Before moving, take a moment on the floor to check in with yourself- trying to stand up too quickly after a fall could make you fall again or worsen your injuries.
If you have a way to call for help, do so early on. It might take a moment for help to arrive so calling them early can help speed up the process. Even if you do not need help, it is better to have help come and not be needed than to risk a worsening injury. Emergency alert bracelets, cell phones, and voice-activated speakers are all tools that make it easier to call for help in an emergency. If you are too hurt to move, try to get into a comfortable position while you wait for help. Trust your gut and do not attempt to stand up if you are not able to do so without further injuring yourself or worsening your injury.
If you do think you can get up safely on your own, move slowly so that your body and blood pressure can readjust with each position change. First, roll onto your side and rest in this position while your body adjusts. Then, slowly get into a crawl position and crawl to a sturdy chair- chose one without wheels or a rocker.
Next, brace yourself with the chair by putting your hands on the seat of the chair. Then, slide one foot forward until that foot is flat on the floor, while still kneeling on the other leg. From this position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
Remember, with each position change, take a few breaths to allow your blood pressure to readjust and check in with your body. Once you are up from a fall it is very important to tell your doctor and loved ones that you had a fall so that they can help you strategize on ways to prevent future falls. Things like medication adjustments, vision prescription changes, home safety plans and assistance to stay active can all help reduce your risk of falling in the future.
As a daughter or caretaker of someone at risk for falls, it is also a good idea to actually show your loved one the technique described above for standing up safely after a fall. Walk through each step, illustrating how to roll onto one side, adjust your foot, and get up onto the chair.
If you would like to learn this technique from a certified instructor, please join our upcoming course called “Matter of Balance” at the Kaunoa Senior Center this August. During the four-week course, participants will learn ways to reduce their risk for falls not only at home but also out in the community, as well as the best and safest way to get up from a fall. Additionally, because staying active is an essential tool to prevent falls, this course will also cover ways to stay active and some simple exercises to improve balance. For more information, visit mauihealth.org/falls, or email MHSinfo@kp.org.