101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents # 3

If I was pushed to identify ONE practical thing that should be done when one’s elderly parents show the first signs of  becoming in any way unsteady on their feet, it would be to take as many measures as possible to avoid falls.

This is a lesson that I only learned after my mother had tripped over a flex and broken her hip. The implications of breaking a hip in older age are many and such a fracture can mark the beginning of a downward spiral, especially in terms of independent living.

Fractured Tree in Winter Storm
Fractured  Branch in Winter Storm

I know it’s impossible to remove all possible dangers but there are many features in a parental home that become absolutely taken-for-granted over the years.  Floor mats with raised edges, bedclothes that dangle,  storage that involves needing to stand on chairs or use ladders, precious slippers or other footwear that snags on things or doesn’t have good grip, bath tubs/showers without non-slip mats and hand grips …..

There is clearly need for sensitivity around suggesting/making changes and ideally this will be done in partnership with parents. Binning sloppy slippers,when say a parent is out of the house, can lead to all sorts of rows and tensions, even though it may be done with the best of intentions!

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

15 thoughts on “101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents # 3”

      1. 4yrs ago I broke my back I was in hospital for over a month. It was January / February it was snowy and icy outside and I saw lots of elderly ladies coming in after nasty slips and falls . Again and again I saw them go down hill and heard the relatives saying ” she was fine before the fall” I know what you are saying and it is heart breaking.
        I was also astounded at the way some of the nurses treated the patients . Sometimes they would put a bowl and a flannel on the bed side table for me to wash. Now I was unable to move from a prone position , in a body cast to stop me moving and protecting my back until they could operate . I would wash my hands and face .. nurse would return “have you washed “…”er no I can’t reach, sorry ” ..nurse “oh! I suppose I better do it for you!!” same with food it would be left on the table or locker … nurse would return “oh are you not hungry ?” Me “Yes but I can’t reach”.. Nurse “why didn’t you say” .. me “I did actually”..
        Multiply the stress and that is what the older ladies and men no doubt would of suffered… don’t get me started , I have some horror stories!!

        1. Willow, first of all, so sorry to hear that you had the horror of breaking your back. A horrible experience at any age.

          Yes, it’s the extent to which older people can go downhill after a bad (and often preventable) fall that is so heartbreaking. And I think that for many hospital stays can be very disorientating.
          That issue you mention about the apparent lack of awareness of patient needs is one that resonates all too strongly, though it has to be said that there are some excellent staff out there who seem to ‘see’ and take the time to provide the necessary assistance.

  1. So important to prevent falls, especially for our elders. Grab bars instead of towel racks, those towel racks have given in and led to many an injury, removing scatter rugs, taping down the edges of large rugs, moving upper and lower shelf items to easy reach places. Ask for an in-home OT assessment for safety in activities of daily living. We OT’s can do on-the-spot home modifications and be the bad guy so family can say, “Sorry, the OT said we’ve got to do it this way,”

    1. Hi Joan, excellent points all round! Towel racks, especially, provide such a sense of FALSE security!
      Here in Ireland, anyway, the OT assessment tends to happen AFTER the dreaded first significant fall. Are they used widely in the US at an earlier stage?

      Yes, it certainly makes a difference to have the OT as the ‘bad guy!’

  2. I can second willowdot21`s comments having seen similar myself in hospital wards. Could nurses have assistants say, like special needs assistants in classrooms to at least help feed patients who are unable to feed themselves? Good food is such an essential to recovering health.

    Yes, there are many other aspects that could be addressed too.

    And indeed, as you say, Jean, all those health and safety measures in the home can prevent so much hospitalization and catastrophe in the first place.

    1. Hi RH, thanks for writing and for highlighting the need for good nutrition, especially for recovery. I think you ‘assistant’ idea is already in operation in some settings but definitely needs to be extended greatly.

  3. Oh indeed! My mother is only 72 but has had cataract and glaucoma surgery – she can no longer really drive and doesn’t see everything around her. We hold our breath constantly, waiting for her to bump into stuff or trip over others. She lives 2 hours away so there is only so much we can do and her boyfriend (I guess after 22 years, I can call him her husband!) doesn’t understand to what extent she cannot see…

    As for the hospital stay, I’ve heard more than one horror story, especially when it comes to the elderly. My grandmother had a small stroke and when she was brought to hospital, they understood she had Alzheimer’s as well (she didn’t) so they took that to mean they could forget her in the hallway as she wouldn’t know better! Horrid!

    1. Hi Dale, yes that constant holding of breath is very unpleasant.
      That point about your grandmother is horrific. You’d be hoping that if they thought she had Alzheimer’s that they would be even more vigilant!

      1. Indeed… Her own mother was treated appallingly in a home – she did have Alzheimer’s and was a “walker” so they used to tie her to a chair, tied to a fridge! My aunt had placed her in this home because she could no longer take care of her own mother. They went for a surprise visit and found her like that! Needless to say, she was removed poste-haste… Awful. Our elders are treated worse than animals.

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