There is no denying that falls are dangerous for seniors. Statistics prove that they are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors. Falls also pose the risk of significantly impacting a senior’s independence, causing hospitalizations and a reduced quality of life over the long-term. Luckily there are a number of ways to minimize this threat, from decluttering the space up to fall prevention programs. These are all things that you want to avoid for your loved one, the question is, how do you talk to your loved one about fall risks so they will take it seriously? Here are some tips on how to talk to an aging parent about fall prevention.
1. Use a compassionate approach. Make sure to approach the conversation with understanding and compassion. A condescending tone or an air of disapproval will prevent your loved one from listening to you and taking your suggestions to heart. When you sit down to talk about fall prevention consider using phrases like, “I know this hard to talk about but” or “I know you may not think you are at risk for falling, but it’s best to prevent them before they happen.”
2. Engage and empower your loved one. Instead of telling your loved one what must be done in the home to prevent falls, engage him or her in the solution. Walk through the house together. Point out fall hazards such as throw rugs or piles of clutter on the stairs. Instead of saying, “we need to remove this.” Try sentences that empower your loved one to make the change with you. For example, “Mom, could we put this rug that you like in the guest room instead of leaving it here where you might trip over it? That way your guests can enjoy it.” Or you could say, “what if we got a basket for the kitchen? You could put everything in it so the piles wouldn’t be on the stairs?” When you brainstorm solutions together your loved one may be more prone to adopt them over the long term.
3. Use positive reinforcement. Rather than focusing on changes that your loved one won’t like, focus on the positive. For example, non-slip footwear helps to prevent falls. Rather than telling your loved one that he or she can no longer walk around the house in stocking feet, take him or her to the store to buy a nice new pair of slippers with non-slip soles. Instead of throwing away magazines and newspapers that have piled up on the floor, go on a shopping trip with your loved one to a retail, consignment or thrift store. Have fun finding a new or retro magazine rack or a basket. Buying it together increases the chances that your loved one will use it.
4. Talk about nighttime. Believe it or not, some seniors do not want to turn on the lights when they get up in the middle of the night because it makes them “feel old”. You can combat this by informing your loved one that you are installing night lights in all the outlets. Despite the importance of engaging your loved one in falls prevention, this might be one area where you have to prioritize safety.
Have you had a discussion with your loved one about fall prevention? Did you find strategies to discuss it that were especially successful? Were you successful in finding and eliminating hazards to prevent falls? If so, please share them with us. We would love to hear from you.