Four Most Common Injuries in the Elderly and How to Prevent Them

Written by Joe Fleming

Every year, millions of seniors are sent to the emergency room. Of those millions, nearly 30 percent are there to be treated for some kind of injury.

While often necessary, these trips can be traumatic and often cause seniors a lot of extra stress. The first step to avoiding them is to understand the most common injuries that affect elderly adults.

Listed below are four injuries that often send seniors to the emergency room, along with tips on how to prevent them.

  1. Fractures

Fractures are highly common in seniors. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that seniors lose bone density as they age. This makes their bones more fragile and prone to fractures.

Fractures, especially hip fractures, are often the result of a fall. To prevent them, one of the first things you can do is invest in tools that reduce the risk of slipping and falling. Good ones to start with include:

  • Grab bars and handrails
  • A shower chair for the bathroom
  • Walkers and canes
  • Stair and porch lifts

To decrease the risk of fractures, it’s also important to make sure seniors are getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Seniors should exercise regularly to strengthen their bones and improve their balance, too, and also avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption (both of these weaken the bones).

  1. Wrist and Ankle Sprains

Many falls can result in wrist or ankle sprains. Over time, the tissues of the joints wear down in seniors and become less flexible, which increase their risk of a sprain. Wrist sprains are often caused when someone throws out their hand to catch themselves when they fall. Ankle sprains, on the other hand, can occur from falls and from simple actions like standing up out of a bed or chair.

Many of the precautions mentioned for preventing fractures are also applicable for preventing ankle and wrist sprains. Increasing consumption of vitamins and minerals(in the form of a multivitamin), as well as proteolytic enzymes, can help reduce inflammation and speed up the body’s healing process in the event that a sprain does occur.

  1. Head Trauma

Head trauma is another common injury among seniors. In fact, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) account for approximately 80,000 emergency room visits each year.

Falls cause most TBIs in seniors (about 50 percent). This is because an older adult’s reflexes are often slower and they often lack muscle strength. Both factors limit seniors’ ability to catch themselves when they fall and leave them vulnerable to trauma when their head hits the floor or another object like a cabinet or stair.

Car accidents are the second most common cause of TBIs, accounting for about nine percent.

One of the best ways to prevent head trauma in seniors is to get rid of clutter and objects like loose rugs that could serve as a tripping hazard. It’s especially important to get rid of these items near stairways and sharp-edged pieces of furniture.

Arranging transportation for seniors who are no longer competent drivers is also a good step to decrease their risk of sustaining a TBI while behind the wheel.

  1. Shoulder Dislocations

Shoulder dislocations can be caused by a number of issues, including falling on an outstretched arm, repetitive use from activities like tennis or golf, and overextending when reaching for an object. It’s also possible for seniors to sustain a shoulder dislocation when someone is pulling on their arm to help them stand up.

To prevent shoulder dislocations, seniors should work on improving the range of motion and mobility of their shoulder. They should also work to strengthen the muscles of the shoulder joint to help protect it from injuries.

Rearranging cabinets can be helpful, too, in preventing seniors from having to overexert themselves when reaching for objects. Caregivers should also exercise caution when helping seniors up to avoid accidental dislocations.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to keeping seniors safe and happy in their homes, injury prevention should be a top priority. Taking simple steps to improve stability and minimize accident risk can make a huge difference and give seniors (and their caregivers) peace of mind.

Ten Ways Seniors Can Improve Mobility and Maintain Their Independence

Written by Nurse Susan

Many seniors assume that limited mobility is an unavoidable part of the aging process. This definitely doesn’t have to be the case. By focusing on improving and maintaining their mobility, seniors can age in a healthy way, stay independent longer, and avoid falls and injuries that may negatively impact their quality of life.

Listed below are ten ways that seniors can improve their mobility to maintain strength and independence.

  1. Improve Balance

Focusing on improving balance is essential for seniors who want to avoid falls. Forms of exercise like yoga, tai chi, and pilates are great for improving balance. But, simply practicing standing on one foot (while holding onto chair or countertop) is also beneficial.

  1. Resistance Train

Resistance training strengthens the muscles and bones to improve balance and overall functionality. For seniors who are new to resistance training, bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups are a good starting point. Those who are more experienced can add resistance bands or weights.

  1. Utilize Mobility Aids

For those who currently struggle with walking, reaching, or other daily functions, it’s important to utilize mobility aids rather than simply avoid doing tasks that are challenging. Reach-extenders, canes, and walkers can help you stay active and avoid letting your limitations get in your way.

  1. Adjust Your Living Space

Making adjustments to your home can also improve your mobility and help you maintain your independence. Some good adjustments to start with include:

  • Adding ramps to the entrance of your home
  • Installing rails and grab bars
  • Getting rid of loose rugs and objects that you could trip over
  • Rearranging cabinets and closets to make items more accessible
  1. Work on Your Dexterity

If you improve your dexterity and grip strength, you’ll have an easier time handling tasks like opening doors and jars and carrying groceries. If you have a stronger grip, you’ll also have an easier time holding weights while you resistance train.

There are numerous ways to improve your dexterity and grip strength from the comfort of your own home:

  • Squeeze a stress ball or therapy putty
  • Do wrist curls with light dumbbells
  • Do hand and finger stretches
  • Practice picking up small objects like pennies or paper clips and moving them from one pile to another
  1. Tackle Household Projects on Your Own

There may be some household projects that you need help with — major projects like shingling your roof or mowing the lawn should probably be handled by professions! But, are there projects you’re outsourcing even though you could handle them on your own.

One way to improve your mobility is to challenge yourself to take on more projects. Don’t get carried away and do more than you can manage, but consider tackling tasks like changing light bulbs, vacuuming, and basic cleaning by yourself.

  1. Buy New Shoes

Sometimes, the solution to your mobility problems is simple. Changing your shoes could make a big difference in your ability to walk around and take care of other tasks. Look for shoes with plenty of tread to help you avoid slipping and falling. Your shoes should also fit comfortably and have plenty of support so that you can walk for extended periods of time without hurting your feet. Make sure you’re changing your shoes regularly, too, to avoid wearing them out.

  1. Change Your Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help increase your energy and, by proxy, your mobility. Increasing your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, nuts, and leafy green vegetables can also help reduce inflammation and joint pain that may be limiting your ability to move around freely.

  1. Get Your Eyes Checked

Conserving your vision with regular checkups will also help you maintain your independence. Not only will you be able to drive yourself to appointments, but you’ll also be able to spot potential tripping hazards more easily.

  1. Know Your Limits

Finally, while it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s also important for you to understand your limits. Avoid taking on risky activities that could end up making your mobility worse. If you’re not sure about a specific activity, talk to your doctor before participating.

Five Ways to Encourage Seniors to Stay Social

Written by Nurse Susan

Regular social interaction is essential for seniors, especially those who are living alone and face an increased risk of developing depression.

However, even if they know about the benefits that come with socializing, many seniors feel unmotivated to seek out social engagements, or they feel that they have physical limitations that are holding them back. They may also simply not know how to go about finding opportunities socialize with their peers.

This is where you come in. If you’re worried that a parent or loved one is spending too much time alone, it’s important for you to take some initiative and help them combat social isolation. If you’re feeling a bit lost, start with these five tips:

  1. Help Them Find Transportation

Whether they no longer own a car or suffer from a medical condition that leaves them unable to drive, many seniors end up isolated because they lack transportation.

If this is an issue for the senior in your life, coordinate with other family and friends to arrange regular rides for them.

You might also want to check with your local senior center to see if they offer any kind of shuttle to help seniors run errands or get to community events. Some cities even give seniors free or discounted bus passes.

  1. Provide Them With Adaptive Technologies

Some seniors are also hesitant to go out and socialize because they worry about mobility limitations or hearing deficits.

Making sure your parent or loved one has the proper adaptive tools at their disposal may help them feel more confident going out and spending time with their peers.

Some tools that can make a big difference in the experience seniors have out in public include:

  • Hearing aids
  • Telecoils for busy places like movie theaters and churches
  • Walkers
  • Wheelchairs

Some seniors may be hesitant to use these devices, either because they’re embarrassed about needing extra help or because they think they’re too expensive. It may take a little coaxing at first, so remember to be patient as you talk up the benefits of adaptive technologies.

  1. Address Any Incontinence Issues Ahead of Time

Incontinence is a major issue for the majority of seniors. In fact, urinary incontinence affects more than half of non-institutionalized women over the age of 65 and more than one-fourth of non-institutionalized men.

If the senior in your life struggles with incontinence, they may feel less inclined to leave the house, even for short periods of time. To help assuage their fears, make sure you have incontinence supplies like portable toilets and wipes on hand before going out.

  1. Don’t Ambush Them

When it comes to encouraging seniors to get out and socialize more, it’s important to avoid ambushing them with surprise, last-minute outings. These events will most likely end up increasing their anxiety and may even anger them, especially if they feel like you’re not respecting their wishes.

If you have a particular event that you want to your parent or loved one to attend, be sure to let them know about it ahead of time and continue to remind them leading up the event.

It can also be helpful to contact the person planning the event and let them know about any accommodations your parent may need.

  1. Start Small

If it’s been a while since your parent or loved one has gone out and socialized, they may become overwhelmed very easily.

To make the event more enjoyable for them, be sure to plan it around their current schedule and avoid keeping them out for more than couple hours at a time.

Planning events earlier in the day can also be beneficial, especially for seniors who are starting to struggle with memory loss or dementia, as they often begin to feel confused in the evening (this is known as sundowning).

Don’t let the seniors in your life become isolated, especially if they’re struggling with an illness, the death of a spouse, or another major life change.

Keep these tips in mind as you encourage them to continue to get out and interact with other people, and remember to always be patient when encouraging your loved ones to break their routine or try something new.