I am a 72 year old “child.” My mother is 96 and is amazingly alert. She lives alone in my childhood home, very near where my husband and I live so I’m able to check in with her a few times a day and bring her meals. I love doing things with and for my mother, but I can’t be there 24/7 and she refuses extra help.  Last week she fell three times. Luckily there were no major injuries, but she was unable to get herself up and I found her three hours later. I need to do something, but what?  Janice W., Miami, FL.

Having already experienced several falls, your mother is indeed at a very high risk for a life changing injury should she fall again. You are right to be concerned about your mother’s unwillingness to allow helpers.

I do think you should talk to your mother again, focusing on her continuing risk for a fall and your concern about her safety. Be specific about the tasks that a companion could take care of to make things easier for your mother. For example, having a helper in the early evening would make her transition to nighttime and bedtime easier, and thus safer.

If you’ve already tried this approach without success, try adding that you too are concerned about falling.  After all, you are at the age when women begin to experience issues with balance unless they are conscientious about exercise.  Suggest that you both enroll in a balance training class, Tai Chi or a seniors Yoga series. It would be a fun way to spend time together and both of you would benefit. I have a hunch that the “flavor” of this conversation might make her more receptive to having help since it would focus less on the issue of independence than a specific concern about balance and falls – something most all seniors experience.

Finally, there are modifications to your mother’s home that would make it a safer environment such as replacing loose throw rugs, installing grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet. Good lighting is important too. A sensor near her bed will illuminate a pathway to the bathroom or hallway if she awakes during the night. The CDC offers a Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults.

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Category: Care Planning, Caregiving, Family Relationships, Lifestyle, Medical