Ensuring safety is one of the most important tasks a caregiver performs when providing care for an older person. Helping seniors stay safe reduces the risk for accidents, injuries, hospitalizations and even death. Unfortunately, many caregivers do not have the skills they need to ensure the safety of the people in their care. Senior caregiving training gives family members and other caregivers the tools they need to keep elderly patients safe.
Nine out of ten seniors plan to remain in their current homes for the next five to ten years, according to a recent survey by AARP. Despite their wish to stay at home, nearly two in ten aged 70 and older say they need the assistance of a caregiver or community resource to remain there. Older people face special obstacles to safety that increase the risk for injury.
Senior Caregiving Training Helps Caregivers Recognize and Address Obstacles to Safety
Senior citizens face special challenges when it comes to safety. Obstacles to safety include environmental hazards, mobility issues such as arthritis, diabetic neuropathy and effects of stroke, cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s, and certain medical conditions and treatments.
Of those in the AARP survey that said they planned to remain in their homes, 85 percent said they were confident they could do so without significantly modifying their homes. In other words, they had no plans to install grab handles in bathrooms, remove raised doorway thresholds or implement other safety features. Unfortunately, this reluctance to upgrade the home in anticipation of the normal effects of aging increases the risk for falls. By the time the respondents reached the age of 70, only 43 percent said they found it “very easy” to live in their homes.
Training helps caregivers recognize unsafe features of the senior’s living environment and provide helpful tips on addressing these issues.
Older adults have a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the total population, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Those aged 85 and older are 3.6 times more likely to die in a fire.
Senior caregiving training helps reduce the risk for dying in a fire. Training teaches the caregiver to install and maintain the appropriate number of smoke alarms in the proper places around the home, plan escape routes and evaluate sleeping arrangements. Courses can help the caregiver manage medical oxygen tanks and equipment that can make it easier for fires to start and spread.
Mobility issues can make walking painful and more difficult. These mobility issues can interfere with balance in a way that causes an older person to fall instead of recovering from a minor slip or wobble.
Cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, can causes changes in the brain and body that may affect safety. A person with dementia may forget how to use household appliances, for example, which increases the risk for accident or fire. She may also be unable to judge the temperature of food or bath water, find familiar areas in the home, know when to take medication, or recognize dangerous situations.
In the worst-case scenario, an elder person with cognitive problems may wander from the home. Three out of five people with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia will wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Up to half of these individuals will suffer serious injury or death if not found within 24 hours. Confusion renders these older adults unable to ask for help and therefore vulnerable to weather, traffic and social predators.
Training helps the caregiver assess the home environment for potential dangers, learn where to install locks on doors and know what to do in case of wandering.
Medical problems and treatment for those conditions can cause safety issues. The use of diuretics or other medications that affect bowel and bladder threaten safety, as they can cause frequent and sometimes urgent trips to the bathroom. A stroke can make walking unsafe, especially if one side of the body is severely affected. Glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and other vision problems associated with aging reduce safety while walking.
Infections and multi-drug resistant organisms
Organisms are becoming increasingly resistant to antimicrobial treatment, which means modern antibiotics do not cure infectious diseases that put older patients in peril.
A recent study showed that people over the age of 65 are more likely to harbor multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs). The authors of that study even suggested that older patients are the “main reservoirs” of MDROs in hospitals.
Preventing the spread of MDROs is an essential aspect of patient safety. Training courses can help caregivers learn how to help older patients avoid contracting or spreading MDROs, and deal with any drug resistant infections the older patient may develop.
About one in three people over the age of 65 fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but fewer than half of seniors who fall tell their doctors about it. Falls send more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the Emergency Department each year. Among seniors, falls are the primary cause of bone fractures, hospital admissions for trauma, loss of independence and injury-related death.
Lack of exercise and reduced daily physical activity leads to a decrease in balance proficiency in older adults. Training helps caregivers recognize these risk factors, take measures to reduce falls, know how to respond after a fall and when to tell a doctor.
While there is no way to ensure the safety of all seniors at all times, safety training can help caregivers improve safety. Senior caregiver training teaches caregivers how to improve safety within the living environment, identify medical or cognitive problem that compromise safety and respond appropriately to safety emergencies.