As patients get older, the risk of injury grows and many accidents that create minor damage at a young age can cause serious problems for the elderly. The most common (and often overlooked) cause of injury for those aged 65 and over is falling, and with around three-quarters of falls each year resulting in arm, leg and shoulder injuries, according to RoSPA, it’s important that everything is done to prevent these often devastating accidents from happening.
Injuries from falling can include sprains, breakages, bruising and cuts. Although these may seem like rather minor injuries, for older people, it can result in serious damage. What’s more, a person may not be able to get up after a fall, which can put them at risk to conditions such as hypothermia and pressure sores.
The elderly are more vulnerable to falling for a number of reasons, including poor vision resulting in balance problems, weakness in muscles and long-term health conditions, such as heart disease, hypotension (low blood pressure) and dementia. Furthermore, living conditions can cause falls with wet or polished floors, dim lighting, poorly fitted carpets and rugs and unattainable cupboards and drawers all potential hazards.
There is a number of measures you can put in place to reduce the risk of elderly residents falling in a care home. Outfitting rooms with non-slip flooring and mats, ensuring there is both natural and artificial light sources and keeping all furniture at a reasonable level are all preventative measures. You can also arrange an appointment with a GP who can carry out some simple tests to check balance and review medication for any side effects, which may increase the chances of a fall. Sight tests should also be regularly taken to check for problems with vision.
Exercise is another great way of preventing falls as it keeps people mobile and strong by helping to build up muscle and strengthen bones, which can help to combat osteoporosis. It also releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, allowing people to remain active for longer. The NHS has created a guide to exercises that are suitable for the elderly.
Another common ailment among the elderly is osteoarthritis which is when the cartilage between joints degrades causing pain when moving. Catching osteoarthritis early can help to manage the condition effectively through non-invasive solutions. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Complaints of pain and stiffness in the joints
- Swelling around the joint
- Thinning in the muscles
- Reduction in movement
We have already mentioned how keeping fit can help to manage and treat osteoarthritis but other non-surgical solutions include medication use, alternative therapies and bracing.
Bracing has become a more common treatment pathway for osteoarthritis because as well as helping to keep elderly sufferers mobile for longer, it is a cost effective solution for delaying surgery. Braces work differently depending on where in the body the problem is. For instance, osteoarthritis knee braces offset the load from the affected side of the joint, reducing pain and enhancing mobility, while wrist braces immobilise and stabilise joints to reduce the painful grinding. Compression is also a feature in many braces to help manage inflammation and promote pain relief.
If osteoarthritis is caught early enough, the condition is more manageable therefore allowing the sufferer to maintain their quality of life (QOL).
Giles Leeming has been working at Össur Webshop since 2008 as a clinical specialist orthotist/podiatrist, providing clinical and technical support/training to the Össur team and its customers.