"Help! I'm afraid my elderly mom will fall and seriously hurt herself."
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
It can be a constant fear not knowing how to help your senior loved one if they are at risk of falling.
"What can I do to help them?"
"What if they fall?"
"How do I help them?"
These are all valid concerns.
Don't worry, with a few key points you can be prepared to manage and prevent falls at home.
In this guide we'll go over how to care for the elderly at risk of falling and how to properly lift and transfer seniors with poor balance from a result of a health condition, surgery, or old age. The most important part for you, the person caring for someone, is to pay attention to body movements and to stay calm in the event of a fall.
If you notice a parent or a loved one is starting to lose their balance or is having difficulty getting around like they used to, the first step is to speak up.
Inform them of your worries, remind them of the dangers to falling at an old age and the results that follow from a serious fall. Many times bringing this to their attention helps them realize they need to be aware of their limited mobility and begin to accept safety options such as:
A cane or a walker.
Physical therapy or small mobility exercises.
Assist handles in bedrooms and restrooms.
Shower chair or shower grab bars.
Sometimes distance is a factor and you live out of town or out of state or you have a full-time job and can't be available during certain times to make sure your loved one is safe.
In this case, you can turn to your local hospital's resource center for either an adult day center or an in-home caregiver service while you're away. By having a professional care for your loved one, you get the peace of mind knowing they are in safe and capable hands.
Now, when lifting, moving, and assisting an elderly adult, proper body-mechanics is important to reduce the risk of injury to both senior and the person providing assistance. Some general guidelines to follow when lifting or moving a person are:
Keep your head and neck in proper alignment with your spine.
Maintain the natural curve of your spine; do not bend at your waist.
Avoid twisting your body when carrying a person.
Always keep the person who is being moved close to your body (close to your chest.)
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart to maintain your balance.
Focus on using the muscles in your legs to lift and only using your arms as guides and hooks.
Sitting up in bed
If a person is not strong enough to push his or herself up from their hands to a sitting position in bed, have them lay flat in bed, place one arm under the person's legs and your other arm under their back.
Have them help you slowly move their legs over the edge of the bed while pivoting their body upward so they end up in a sitting position. Remember to keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees bent, and your back in a natural straight position.
You need to allow them to lift themselves up only using you as support while you provide some assistance.
Do not pull or jerk as this will more than likely cause harm or injury.
(If they are being transferred onto a wheelchair, place the chair close to bed and remember to lock the wheels)
When your loved one needs assistance standing up from a sitting position, have them first place their feet flat on the ground and slightly apart. If they are not wearing shoes, help them put on a good pair of non slip ones to prevent them from slipping and falling.
Stand in front of them feet flat and slightly apart, place their hands on your shoulders and ask them to hold on.
Wrap your arms around their back and clasp your hands together, either hand-to-wrist or fingers webbed.
Have them push up to stand themselves while you hold them close to your body.
Provide support by using your legs to stand upright with them.
Do not pull or jerk to stand as this will cause harm or injury to both you and your loved one.
When helping a senior sit or lay down, first bring them as close as possible to their desired location whether a chair, car, or bed.
Work in the opposite direction as "standing up."
Wrap your arms around their back and clasp your hands together, either hand-to-wrist or fingers webbed. Bend your knees and begin to lower them down slowly reminding them not to drop their weight. Have their arms on the chair or bed and make sure their surrounding area is safe before you lower them down.
If they suffer a fall with you present
Do not try to get them up immediately.
Even if they are in a state of panic, remember, you need to stay calm. Communicate with them and let them know you need to check for serious injuries first.
Immediately picking them up from a fall may further worsen an injury that occurred.
You can ask them to take some deep breaths to help them relax; in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Once it's clear there is no serious injury, you can step in to help them get up. It is important they get themselves up with your minimal assistance. You can bring a stool, chair, or use your body for them to grab onto and stabilize themselves up.
This needs to be done carefully and gradually with them in full control.
By having them do the majority of the work to get back up, it can expose any hidden injury they may not be aware of and may not be visible. If you stand them up, you may worsen the unrealized injury.
If the fall occurs with a health professional near by, it's always best to ask for assistance.
If someone else is near by and able to help, coach them through the process to prevent them from causing harm.
If your senior is having problems moving or is in significant pain, call 911 for an ambulance and wait by their side.
Follow up with their primary physician after a fall to make sure all measures are taken for proper healing.
Communicating and practicing this guide with your loved one will both prepare and help you manage your senior's risk of falling.
Print this page or have some notes displayed somewhere in home for quick access should you encounter these situations.
When in doubt, do not hesitate to have a professional care for your loved one and allow them to age peacefully.
Senior in-home caregivers