Dear Donna:

My father keeps falling. I live three hours away and have had to drop everything three times this month to race to his house after he had a fall. He says it is just a normal part of aging. I think there is more to it. What can we do? I will lose my job if this keeps up!

-Suzanne in Bay City, Michigan

Dear Suzanne:

The teams at Heritage Senior Communities hear stories similar to yours from families we work with across Michigan every day. We know the role of long-distance caregiver is a tough one. Especially if you work and have your own family.

And, you are right. While our senior population does experience more falls, they are not a typical part of the aging process.

There are a few things we can recommend you try to help keep your father safe at home:

  1. Consider having a physical or occupational therapist do an evaluation of his home environment. They can look at potential hazards that may be increasing his risk for falls. That includes throw rugs, places where grab bars should be installed, stairway safety, lighting and more.
  2. Has your father had a vision test lately? Many times poor vision and falls go hand in hand. It may be time for a new prescription for his glasses. Or he may be suffering from cataracts that are impairing his vision. It is best to have it checked out.
  3. Does your father take any prescription medications? The side effects of some medicines can cause an unsteady gait. Or it could be the interaction between two medications that is impacting his balance. Your father’s pharmacist is a good resource for helping you make this determination.
  4. Poor nutrition can also lead to falls. Is your father eating a well-balanced diet? If he no longer drives or suffers from a disease like Parkinson’s or arthritis, it may be difficult for him to prepare healthy meals. Your local Area Office on Aging will have recommendations on meal delivery programs that might help.
  5. Strength and flexibility are what help us maintain good posture and balance. If your father has a sedentary lifestyle, you might want to talk with his family physician about strength training and flexibility exercises. He might recommend chair yoga, Tai Chi or another form of no impact exercise to help him regain his strength and flexibility.

If you would like to assess his home on your own, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a great Home Fall Prevention checklist that can help.

I hope these tips help, Suzanne! Best of luck to you and your father.