Some of the most common issues that affect personal safety are:
- Elder Abuse: Any action that causes harm to or poses a serious risk to anyone over age 65 is considered “elder abuse.” An estimated 2,150,000, or 9% of all seniors are abused in some way each year. About 60% of this abuse is “neglect,” while 90% of the abusers are family members, adult children, or spouses. Amazingly, 91% of all nursing homes are considered “neglectful,” and do not have the proper staff to take care of their patients!
- Driving is often an important sign of both independence and competence for seniors unwilling to give up their right to drive. A “Senior Driving Safety” program can quantify reaction times and evaluate driver awareness, thus identifying potentially dangerous drivers. Such third-party professional evaluations can be a blessing, protecting the senior and the general public. Ongoing medications and impairments are debilitating for all ages, and a serious threat behind the wheel.
- Bathroom Safety and Personal Hygiene Installing safety bars in showers and around toilets is perhaps the most effective preventative for accidents. Similarly, keeping up all aspects of personal hygiene can an effective preventative for many diseases and conditions.
- Wandering, or “Elopement” away from their safe and familiar environment can be a dangerous trait among dementia and Alzheimer´s patients, and pose challenges for care-givers.
- Nutrition, diet, and medications are important in maintaining overall health and awareness. Day-of-week pillboxes help prevent over-medication, and also insure that daily supplements are taken. Care-givers should pay especial attention to nutrition, possible drug interactions, ongoing side effects, and patient response to diet.
- Aggressive Behaviors can become dangerous and psychologically damaging to patients and care-givers alike. When physical restraints are necessary they add new levels of complexity to health safety, often prompting new prescriptions or additional dosages of psychotropic medications.
- Chronic Conditions like arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, delerium, dementia, Alzheimer´s, infections, silent strokes or infarcts, poor heart function, reactions to medications, and digestive retention can impact personal safety at any time. Any of these conditions can distract or debilitate any age group while driving. Perhaps the single most common risk posed by these chronic conditions to the personal safety of the elderly is that of falling.
Falling, a National Priority
Now the leading cause of death due to injury in the U.S. and a $30 billion per year burden on Medicare and Medicaid, “falling” has become a national priority. With a strong correlation to increased and multiple medications, “falling” can be a life-threatening event for a third of all seniors over age sixty-five. More than a million and a half seniors suffer a serious fall and are treated in emergency rooms each year. By age 80, half of seniors fall somewhere, somehow each year, with a 25% chance of reaching the Hereafter shortly thereafter.
Poor floor traction, slippery showers and tubs, bad lighting, and taking sedatives, antipsychotics, or multiple medications are just a few of the many causes of elderly falls. Accidents can often be prevented by routine professional check-ins that spot potential hazards, by monitoring the side-effects of medications, by scheduling regular check-ups, by using canes, walkers, and shower-seats, and by installing safety bars. Stairs are particularly hazardous for the elderly, and sturdy handrails on both sides can lower the risk of a base-jumping style descent.
A routine sleep schedule, healthy diet, and regular exercise are precautionary, too, keeping the elderly more aware, alert, and balanced. Regular strength, stamina, and balance exercises can mean all the difference between a stumble/recovery and a serious spill. In the event that an elderly loved one does fall, those who are equipped with emergency beepers and/or medical alert systems can get professionals to the scene quickly and prevent a greater catastrophe. As a last word of advice:
“Don’t worry about avoiding temptation… as you grow older, it will avoid you.”
– Winston Churchill