Fall Risk Assessment Tools: Is a Home Safety Evaluation Worth It?

The short answer is a resounding yes. If you’re a senior citizen, a fall risk assessment is simply insurance — and very affordable insurance at that, considering the consequences of a bad fall.

Start at Home

Among the many fall risk assessment tools, some evaluate whether a home is safe while others make sure you yourself are, but the best do both. The typical home for an older adult can be filled with hazards, and knowing what they are will help you to maintain your independence.

If you’re being discharged from the hospital, ask your healthcare provider to order a home safety evaluation. A physical therapist or nurse can make a professional inspection and report what measures are needed to make a home more safe. Of course, you may choose whether or not you’d like to follow any recommendations. Here are some of the things a report may focus on:

  • Loose throw rugs
  • Dim lighting
  • Cramped walkways
  • Electric or other cords strewn across the floor
  • Pets
  • Access to emergency communication
  • Access to home therapy equipment
  • Lack of handrails in the bathroom
  • Fire safety

Assessing Your Personal Safety

The home is a senior’s anchor to independence, and making it a safe place goes a long way toward ensuring that it’s kept that way. A number of personal physical factors also increase your risk of falling. Among these are:

  • Dizzy episodes
  • Vision problems
  • Cognitive issues
  • Certain medications
  • Balance and gait
  • Support system
  • Chronic diseases
  • Use of assistive devices

Fall Assessment Tools

Whether at the hospital, seeing your healthcare provider, or having a home health physical therapist visit, professional assessment tools are employed to screen your risk for falls. Among the many used, a few are especially popular.

Designed to test your mobility, the Timed Up and Go test (TUG) is one the simplest. The therapist will time how long it takes for you to stand up from a chair, walk a few feet, turn around, and then sit back down.

More extensive than TUG, the Berg Balance test focuses on exactly what its name implies. Judging your ability to stand from a sitting position to how long you can stand on one leg, are two of many other components. The test assesses how common movements might interfere with your balance, such as stretching one arm or bending over to pick up an object.

Among the most complex assessment tools, the Fall Risk and Assessment and Screening Tool (FRAST) gathers enough information to determine whether you are at low, medium, or high risk for falls. One of the best uses of the FRAST is to establish a detailed baseline risk for falls. Subsequent tests can then measure the progression of any risks.

You might be hesitant to incorporate a fall risk assessment, but remember that your decision to allow this intervention will go a long way toward ensuring your safety and independence.

For seniors with concerns about falling, a medical alert system can provide additional peace of mind and help increase safety in the home.

Talk to Christina Djerf, HomeChoice Lifeline Program Manager, to find out more about Lifeline medical alert systems »

 

Source: Philips Lifeline Blog, by Charles R. Hooper, MSW