Falls are a serious risk for seniors or anyone who has been weakened by surgery, treatment, or an injury. But there are steps you can take to maintain safety and reduce the risk of falls at home. For example, grab bars, handrails, bathtub modifications, and shower seats can be installed in your loved one's home to help reduce the risk of falls.
A solution could be as simple as moving a piece of furniture a few inches to one side to make the path to the kitchen easier. You could also include increasing the brightness of light bulbs in the stairway, entry or basement. If your care recipient experiences dizziness, they need to stand slowly and make sure they’re steady on their feet before stepping away from their chair. When balance is a problem, a cane or walker is recommended.
You can arrange an in-home assessment of trip hazards and falls risks by contacting the rehabilitation services team at your local hospital, asking your Continuing Care Coordinator to refer you, or by contacting a physiotherapist or occupational therapist privately. Some services will require assessments or have wait lists so call early to talk about eligibility.
If you want to take a proactive approach to falls risks, you may find Fall-proofing Your Home, or the Home Safety Checklist to be helpful. If You Fall or Witness a Fall is an informative guide on how to safely get up or help the person who has fallen get up.
If there is a fall, before you act, think about whether you can SAFELY get up or help that person up. If not, call 9-1-1 and request an ambulance. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will help the fallen person up and assess them to make sure there is no injury. There is no cost for the EMT visit. A fee will only be charged if the person is transported to hospital.
If you are a Nova Scotia resident with a valid Nova Scotia health card, the province pays the cost of transfers between approved facilities such as hospitals. Otherwise, you will be charged a fee if you are transported. You can apply under the Ambulance Fee Assistance Program to set up a repayment schedule or to have the fee waived. This Program is income tested. If you disagree with the fee you were charged, you can appeal it by contacting the EHS Billing Office at 902.832.8337 or toll-free at 1.888.280.8884 within 30 days of the billing date. You may also be asked to submit your appeal in writing.
If equipment such as crutches, a walker, shower chair, raised toilet seat, or cane is needed, contact the Canadian Red Cross Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP).
If you are having trouble finding resources in your community, call Caregivers Nova Scotia at 1.877.488.7390 for assistance.
You may find yourself trying to achieve a delicate balance. On the one hand, you want to respect your loved one’s wishes and their right to decorate their home the way they want it. On the other hand, a few changes could make the difference between a fall that results in a downward spiral of health or your loved one remaining well and independent.
If your loved one has the ability to contribute to decisions or to make their own choices, it can affect you as the caregiver. Your input should be sought as well. If your care recipient has the cognitive ability to recognize risks and consequences, they may still make a decision that is different from the one you want them to make. If they have the capacity to choose and they choose risk, it’s their right. This is true even though it may make your role as a caregiver more difficult and demanding.
Why Autonomy Matters: A Personal Reflection, Providing Choices to Your Care Recipient, and I Can’t Make Any More Decisions may help you with difficult decisions.