Seniors: The Threat of Falling; the Fear of Pneumonia

May 17th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Falling and pneumonia are two of the most dreaded of experiences aging people can encounter.  Each has the potential of radically altering one’s lifestyle.  The former is advertised as a fear and crisis, particularly for those who live alone.  The latter has been called “the old man’s disease.”  Each carries the threat of removing what independence, no matter how great or small, one has left.

Because of the magnitude of this threat, certainly in the case of falling, every precaution needs to be taken to make environments and movement as safe as possible.  This requires an evaluation of living quarters, being aware of any obstacle and other mobility-threatening impediments.  Rugs are particularly dangerous.  Throw rugs should be eliminated entirely.  Carpeting can create a hazard, particularly if the person does not lift one’s feet adequately when walking.  There should be no steps of any height to impede mobility.  If there is a pet in the home, pet toys and dishes should be eliminated from traffic areas. Magazines and other periodicals should not be tossed on the floor, even near chairs.  Walking in the areas of access to the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room should be free of any potential threat for falling. 

Floors should not be highly waxed or slick from any liquid substance.  If possible, rails should be installed in hallways where traffic is frequent.  Bathrooms, of course, should have safety bars in convenient locations.  Access by walker or wheel chair should be made available before one becomes dependent on them.  Waiting to do so may tempt the possibility of a fall. 

Be certain adequate low lighting is provided at night for movement between bedroom and bath.  If using a walker ordinarily, do not try to make it to the bathroom without it.  Have a portable phone or other device within reach in the event of an emergency.  Be sure phone numbers are visible and programmed into the device.  Practice use and familiarity with the device. 

Do a test run.  If you are the primary caretaker, test yourself as if you were the person requiring helpful safety measures.  Does anything stand out as a threat to your getting from one place to another?  If so, correct it.  Have the resident test her/his ability to move without interruption.  Does it work well for them?

Among other considerations, check with a physician to determine if any medications may be contributing to imbalance issues.  If there are influences that are creating the fear of falling which are medically related, that needs to be identified and dealt with. 

In the case of contracting pneumonia, the requirements are quite different.  In this situation, of course, consultation and attention to all the medical issues that are going on must be done  in a thorough and timely manner.  Heading off the pneumonia, if possible, is the first requirement. 

On the next trip to the doctor,  have the doctor review with the patient ways to deal with the threat of pneumonia.  Be aware of recommended medical procedures to prevent its becoming  life threatening.  It isn’t just a cold or the flu.  It may be quite dangerous.  Be aware of ways to address its threat.



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