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How to discuss falls with a loved one

As we age, our bodies undergo changes that can increase the risk of falls. Having a fall at home can have a great impact on not only physical but also emotional wellbeing. People aged 65 and over have the highest risk of falling, and each year in Ireland 1 in 3 people over 65 will have a fall.  

Discussing falls with loved ones can be a challenging topic. Loved ones may feel embarrassed or be in denial about the risks surrounding falling at home.  

Having these conversations are vital to make sure loved ones are safe at home, and for starting a conversation around putting preventative measures in place to hopefully lower the risk of your loved ones having an unfortunate slip, trip or fall.  

 

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment 

Before broaching the topic of falls, it's crucial to establish a comfortable and non-judgmental atmosphere. Have the discussion in a private setting where your loved one will feel most comfortable. Have the conversation one-on-one to help reduce your loved one feeling overwhelmed and ensure that your loved one is in a good mental state to be able to have the conversation.  

Normalise the conversation 

It’s important to highlight that falls at home can happen to anyone, helping to alleviate any feelings of embarrassment or weakness for the individual. Talk about charities like Falls Action or Age Action and the work they do to keep older people safe at home. Once your loved one feels like they are not on their own, they might be more likely to speak up or share how they are feeling.  

Seek professional help  

When it comes to discussing falls at home, it’s vital to seek the guidance of a health professional. Health professionals will be able to identify any conditions that may increase the risk of falls, i.e. low blood pressure, vertigo or dizziness. Having this knowledge can help identify the best course of action that respects the wishes of your loved one while helping to keep them safe at home.  

When implementing any mobility aids in the home, it’s important to speak with a health professional, like an Occupational Therapist, to ensure the aids being used are suitable for the individual and that they are being used correctly.  

Use positive examples/influences where possible 

Discussing falls can be a scary topic, in particular for older people who may have experienced falls in the past. One thing that might help, is weaving into the conversation positive examples of people who have adopted technology or implemented aids in the home to help prevent the risk of falls.  

This may be neighbours, friends or even celebrities that they will know and be aware of. This will help show your loved one the solutions that are available, while still allowing for independent living.   

Identifying Risk Factors and solutions together  

Work together to identify potential risk factors for falls. Turn the conversation into a discussion and ask your loved one open-ended questions like “What do you think would be the best approach?” to make sure their opinions and thoughts are heard. Potential risks might include elements such as; rugs around the home, wires in potential trip zones, not wearing footwear around the home etc.  

By pinpointing these risk factors collaboratively, you can develop a plan to address them and help reduce the likelihood of future falls. 

Discussing falls with older adults requires patience, empathy, and sensitivity. By creating a safe and supportive environment, normalising the conversation, you can help make the conversation around falls at home, easier for both you and your loved ones.  

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