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You’ve Had a Fall – Now What?Posted Dec 07, 2017
We often hear a lot about how to prevent falls – whether it is ensuring that your stairs and hallways are barrier free or ensuring that you have the appropriate support equipment to match your mobility needs. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, falls still happen.
After a fall, many seniors are left with injuries but also with many questions about what happens next. What can you expect in your recovery? Will you need to stay in hospital? What supports might you need at home?
Here are some things you can expect following a fall:
- Seek medical attention
Even if you feel fine after a fall, go see a doctor. You may have sustained injuries that don’t seem obvious to you but could cause longer term issues. The fall could have been a result of a new medical problem so it is important to get checked out in case you may need treatment.
Depending on the severity of the fall, you may visit a hospital to be checked out and treated as well.
- Identifying causes and course of treatment
Your doctor or the hospital will likely want to run some tests to get a better sense of what may have caused the fall or to assess any injuries that may have been a result of the fall. These tests could include: checking your blood pressure while sitting and standing; various blood tests such as a blood cell count, blood sugars, or for kidney function; or tests such as MRIs or CT scans to determine if there are any internal injuries or head trauma. Doctors may also perform a gait assessment where they assess the individuals walking and balancing. This can help identify any pain or discomfort or help develop a physical therapy plan for recovery.
- Being treated for any immediate injuries
If you’ve had any immediate injuries as a result of the fall the hospital will treat those injuries as necessary. This could be stabilizing a broken bone, treating a head injury, or tending to any wounds or bruising.
- Treatment in hospital
If your fall has caused serious injuries such as a broken hip or pelvis, you may be required to stay in hospital until your injuries have healed and you are able to regain mobility. The length of time for a hospital stay is dependent on a number of factors including: the severity of the injury; the progress made during physical therapy; and equipment and people in your home that will be able to provide support.
- Getting ready to go home
Whether you’ve just been checked over or if you had been admitted to the hospital for a longer-term recovery, when it is time to go home there will undoubtedly need to be some planning involved to ensure you are able to do so safely.
This may include a home safety assessment to determine what, if any, equipment such as a walker, grab bars, a wheelchair, or a hospital bed would be needed. These pieces of equipment will go a long way to help you navigate your home even with your decreased mobility and will hopefully lead to a quicker recovery. Always be sure to use the equipment as directed by your doctor, physiotherapist, or occupational therapist; they will have prescribed this equipment based on their expertise and assessment of your needs and current situation.
The hospital will also want to ensure that the appropriate level of caregiving support is available to you at home before being discharged. This may be support from your spouse or a family member or friend, or it may be a professional caregiver through the Provincial Continuing Care Program or through a private homecare agency such as Always Home Homecare.
- Reducing the risks for future falls
Your doctor may have prescribed new medications that may help treat the underlying cause of your fall. It is important to take these new medications as directed and alert your doctor of any side effects you may notice.
It will also be important to ensure that your home remains a safe place. You and your caregiver can do so by ensure that you are properly supported anytime a transfer is needed, keeping hallways and stairs stay clear of clutter, and ensuring that grab bars and other stability aids are properly installed.
Check out our Prep Before You Step Toolkit for other fall prevention strategies.