Falls pose serious risks for seniors or anyone who has been weakened by surgery, treatment, or an injury. But there are steps you can take to ensure safety and reduce the risk of falls at home. For example, grab bars, handrails, bathtub modifications, and shower seats may be installed in your loved one's home to help reduce the risk of falls.
Accommodation could be as simple as moving a large piece of furniture a few inches to one side, making the path to the kitchen smoother. It could include increasing the wattage of light bulbs in the stairway, entry, or basement. It may be a matter of dizziness and your loved one needs to learn to stand slowly and make sure they are steady on their feet before stepping away from the chair, or to use a cane or walker when balance is an issue.
You can arrange an in-home assessment of trip hazards and falls risks by contacting a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or your local Seniors Team. Some services require assessments or have wait lists so call early to discuss eligibility.
If you want to take a proactive approach to falls risks, you may find Fall-proofing Your Home to be helpful. If You Fall or Witness a Fall is an informative guide to the do's and don’ts of how to safely get up or help the person who has fallen get up.
If there is a fall, before you act, think about whether you can SAFELY get up or help that person up. If not, call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance. Emergency Medical Technicians will help the fallen person up and assess their condition to ensure there is no injury, and they do this at no cost. There is only a fee if the person is transported to hospital.
If you are a Nova Scotia resident with a valid Nova Scotia health card, the province pays the cost of transfers between approved facilities (i.e. hospitals). Otherwise, you will be charged a fee if you are transported. Under the Ambulance Fee Assistance Program, you can apply to set up a repayment schedule or to have the fee waived. This Program is income tested. If you disagree with the fee you were charged, you can appeal it by contacting the EHS Billing Office at 902.832.8337 or toll-free at 1.888.280.8884 within 30 days of the billing date. You may also be asked to submit your appeal in writing.
If you are having trouble finding resources in your community, call Caregivers Nova Scotia at 1.877.488.7390 for assistance.
Once again, we find ourselves trying to achieve a delicate balance. On the one hand, you want to respect your loved one’s autonomy and their right to decorate their home to their liking. On the other hand, a few changes could make the difference between a fall that begins a downward spiral of ill health or your loved one remaining well and functionally independent. It is sometimes surprising how attached our loved ones can be to their scatter mats!
If your loved one has the ability to contribute to decisions or to make their own choices, be aware that it will impact you as the caregiver. Your input should be sought as well. If your care recipient has the cognitive ability to recognize risks and consequences, they may make a decision contrary to the one you want them to choose. And if they have capacity to choose and they choose risk, it is their right, even though it may make your role as caregiver far more difficult and demanding.