Falls are a common occurrence for seniors, and, as many caregivers know, they can be very frightening. Once the initial shock wears off, family members are often left wondering how to get an aging loved one back on their feet. The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, the most important being whether the person was injured in the fall. When in doubt, it’s always safest to call 911 for help.
It is extremely common for a panicked caregiver to hurt themselves while trying to pick up a senior after a fall. This can have long-lasting consequences and prevent one from seeing to their caregiving duties for days, weeks or longer, depending on the severity of the injury. Not to mention this puts the senior at risk of being dropped or maneuvered incorrectly. Even if medical assistance isn’t required, first responders can help provide the brawn and expertise needed to get a loved one off the floor safely and confirm that they don’t need to go to the hospital.
Below are some general guidelines that can help you get a loved one upright, without hurting them or yourself in the process. Keep in mind that these strategies should only be used when you know your loved one hasn’t sustained an injury. Excess movement can cause further harm.
Tips for Picking Up a Senior Who Has Fallen
- Stay calm and help your loved one to remain calm by encouraging them to take slow, deep breaths.
- Examine them for injuries like bruises, bleeding, possible sprains and broken bones.
- Ask them if they are experiencing any pain, where it is located and how severe it is.
- If they have a serious injury (e.g. a broken bone), then don’t move them. Call 911 and keep your loved one as warm, comfortable and still as possible until help arrives.
- If they aren’t badly hurt and they want to get up, proceed slowly. Stop at any point if they become stuck, experience pain or become too tired to get all the way up.
- Find two sturdy chairs. Place one next to the senior’s head and the other down by their feet. Keep in mind that your loved one needs to be capable of doing the physical work required to get up. Your role is to help guide them through these steps and keep them steady, not lift their weight. If they cannot do this, then call 911.
- Help your loved one roll over onto their side and assist them in getting onto their hands and knees. If they suffer from sore knees, place a towel beneath them to make this step more comfortable.
- Move the chair closest to their head directly in front of where they are so that they can place their hands evenly on the seat and assume a kneeling position.
- Ask the senior to lean forward on the seat as they bring their strongest leg forward, leading with the knee to place their foot flat on the floor. The senior should look like they are in a kneeling lunge at the end of this step.
- Move the second chair directly behind your loved one, then ask them to use both their arms and legs to push themselves up and sit back into the this chair. You can use your hands to keep your loved one steady but keep your back upright and make sure they are doing the physical work to lift themselves.
- Keep the senior seated until you’re confident that they can stand and continue moving around without hurting themselves or falling again.
- Immediately notify their doctor that they’ve had a fall and keep an eye out for emerging pain and signs of injury.
How to Get Back Up After You Have Fallen
- Stay calm and take a few deep breaths.
- Examine yourself for injuries.
- If you find that you are injured or unable to get up, try to alert someone to your predicament. While you’re waiting for help, try to keep warm and stay calm.
- If you are confident you haven’t broken any bones or experienced a serious injury, search for the nearest piece of sturdy furniture. (A chair would be ideal.)
- Slowly roll onto your side and then work to get onto your hands and knees.
- Crawl or drag yourself over to the piece of furniture.
- Get into a kneeling position and place your hands on a stable part of the piece of furniture (e.g. the seat of the chair).
- Choose your strongest leg and move that knee forward to place your foot on the floor. You should end up in a kneeling lunge with your hands still on the piece of furniture for support.
- Using your arms and legs simultaneously, push yourself up and pivot around until you’re sitting on the piece of furniture.
- Stay sitting until you’re confident you can move around without hurting yourself or falling again.
- Once you are up, notify your doctor that you’ve had a fall and keep an eye out for emerging pain or signs of injury.
Falls Should Never Remain Secret
Even though one in every four adults aged 65 and older experience a fall each year, fewer than half of these individuals tell their physician about it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These accidents are often seen as embarrassing indicators of a senior’s decline and their impending reliance on others for assistance. It’s natural to want to keep these incidents a secret but doing so may limit a senior’s independence in the long run because they do not receive proper support and learn about fall prevention measures.
Awareness of this problem can help family members work together to devise solutions and make a senior’s home a safer place. This is crucial if falls are becoming more frequent. Small modifications like reducing clutter, installing grab bars and purchasing a medical alert system can make all the difference.
Regardless of whether it is you or your aging loved one who experiences a fall, it’s essential to notify a doctor about the event. He or she can make sure no injuries were sustained and suggest ways to prevent future tumbles.