Seniors In Danger: 4 Common Risks Facing Older Adults

Senior citizens are uniquely at risk for injury from normal daily activities such as climbing the stairs, improper medication administration, and even from food borne illnesses. Worst of all, these injuries and ailments that would be no problem for a younger person can be much more serious in the elderly. Still, there’s some good news – many of these issues can be prevented. 

If you’re a caregiver for an aging friend or relative, be on the lookout for the following four risks. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that’s double true when it comes to caring for our aging loved ones. 

Medication Administration

Older adults are more likely to be on prescription medication than younger ones and while most do their best to be compliant, they often make mistakes. They may miss a dose or take extra dosages. If possible, help the older adults in your life collaborate with their doctor or pharmacist to prevent medication administration errors. Special pill boxes and alarms can ease the process significantly.

Slip And Falls

Did you know that every year over 2.5 million Americans over 65 are treated for falls in an emergency setting? Falls are a huge problem for older adults because many also have osteoporosis, which creates a greater risk of fracture – and subsequent physical decline. 

Most of these falls occur in the home, so evaluating that environment should be a top priority. Move bedroom and bathroom facilities to one floor, if possible, and remove area rugs that can slide and cause a fall. Even pets can increase the risk of a fall since they get under feet.

Of course, falls can happen in other places as well and it’s not always possible for caretakers to prevent them. Public facilities should be vigilant about keeping their spaces safe and free of trip hazards because inadequate lighting, wet floors, or other dangerous conditions can leave them vulnerable to a personal injury lawsuit.

Infection Risk

A lot of younger people are defensive about skipping the flu shot because, as they want to say, they never get the flu – and even if they do, how bad could it really be? The answer is that the flu is much more dangerous than people give it credit for, especially to infants and the elderly. 

For young people, getting your flu shot should be thought of as a way to protect older adults, and they should also receive the flu shot as long as they are not immunocompromised. Vaccine makers even produce special flu vaccines for those over 65, as they are disproportionately represented among flu deaths. 

Older adults who can’t get the flu vaccine, such as those are immunocompromised from chemotherapy or an organ transplant, should limit public interaction during flu season, restrict visitors to those who have been vaccinated, and wash their hands regularly. Preventing exposure is critical and should be considered a top priority.

Foodborne Illness

As much as they may struggle with medication administration, some older adults have a difficult time practicing proper food safety, putting them at risk of foodborne illness. More likely, however, is that seniors living in nursing homes or similar facilities will be sickened by the food served there. Between 1998 and 2017, there were 230 outbreaks of food poisoning in long-term care facilities, sickening over 7,500 people and leading to 54 deaths. 

How can you help prevent food poisoning among vulnerable seniors? One step is to ask their living facilities about recent kitchen inspections and meal preparation norms. You should also visit during meal time if possible, to see the quality of the food served. If anything seems off, raise the alarm, as simple food poisoning can make seniors much sicker than younger adults who are better able to fight off such illnesses.

Older adults are living longer than ever, but their quality of life depends on preventative measures. To minimize potential risks, we need to view the world through new eyes. We experience different risks at each phase, so what’s safe for someone in the prime of life may put older adults at risk. We can do more to keep our seniors safe.