In this article, we'll discuss how to support an older person following a fall in a manner that emphasises safety and minimises distress.
Falls become a more serious risk as we age
Our mobility tends to reduce as we get older, often due to a decline in balance, bone or muscle strength.
Relatively common conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's and anaemia are also associated with an increased risk of experiencing a fall.
Risks you might not have thought about in the past – protruding furniture, loose rugs and polished floors – become more of a challenge to navigate.
Not only is the risk greater, injuries sustained can be more severe, and it's often harder for older people to get up without the assistance of a medically-trained professional.
If a person is unable to do so, this could eventually lead to secondary health considerations, such as pneumonia.
How to support an older person following a fall
These are the three steps you should be looking to take to support your loved one:
1. Assess the situation
Ask them whether they are experiencing any pain. If so, ask them how severe the pain is and where it's located.
Look out for any signs of injury, such as:
- Potential sprains
- Broken bones
If your loved one has any kind of serious injury, or an injury likely to be exacerbated by movement, call for an ambulance immediately.
2. Keep yourself and your loved one calm
Acting calmly and encouraging your loved one to do the same is vitally important.
This will help you make the right decisions and help reduce the stress of the situation for your loved one.
Reassure your loved one and advise them to take deep breaths. Providing you are confident it won't cause any further injury or distress, think about ways to make your loved one more comfortable.
Try to keep them warm, support their head or any tender areas with a towel or cushion, and offer them a drink of water.
3. Notify medically-trained professionals
Even if your loved appears free from injury, make sure to notify medical professionals at the earliest possible opportunity.
Do not try to lift your loved one. Unless they can safely bring themselves back onto their feet unassisted, you will need to call an ambulance to ensure they are assisted using the correct technique.
In all cases, you should ensure you notify your loved one’s doctor as the fall may indicate an underlying health issue that warrants further attention.
How to help guide your loved one up if appropriate
You should always avoid manual lifting after a fall as this could cause additional injuries to you or your loved one.
Only in cases where your loved one is able to guide themselves up without assistance or additional injury should you consider the following technique.
If safe to proceed, take these steps to help your loved one guide themselves back to their feet:
- Place two sturdy chairs next to them (one near their head and one by their feet)
- Support them in rolling onto their side, then up onto their hands and knees
- Move the chair in front of them; ask them to place their hands on it (which will put them into the kneeling position)
- See if they can now bring their strongest foot forward (putting their foot flat on the floor), leaning their weight on the chair if needed
- Bring the second chair directly behind them and make sure it's stable
- Encourage them to push themselves backwards into this second chair if possible, using both their arms and legs (guide them if needed, but refrain from lifting them)
- Ensure they stay seated until you're confident they can stand/walk unaided
- Let their doctor know a fall has occurred, and keep monitoring them for signs of developing injuries
During this process, if your loved one feels any pain, becomes stuck or too tired to continue, stop immediately and call for medical assistance.
The Good Care Group's Falls Prevention Programme has been shown to reduce fall rates by 97%; find out more about our live-in care services by speaking to the friendly team at The Good Care Group.