Helmets for Falls?
It seems that I attend a lot of funerals these days, mostly of parents of my friends. At this recent funeral, the deceased had been a lively 93 years old. A bad fall at home and a nasty bump on the head lead to complications that ended her life rather quickly.
At the meal after the funeral service, I shared with a few people that I was an occupational therapist and that many of my patients, particularly the geriatric ones, were victims of falls. One of the guests asked my why at-risk older folks did not wear protective helmets. That conversation really got me thinking.
I have a few older people in my family who are terrified of losing balance and falling, especially those who live alone. (One elderly relative shared with me that she sometimes wore a baseball cap around the house to protect her head in case she fell; right idea, but wrong kind of hat!) They are correct to be fearful, because falls are quite common in older people and can begin a chain of events that can shorten one's life quickly.
So why don't our patients who are at risk for falling wear protective helmets? Many people wear helmets as routine part of their gear for various activities. Football players, whether they are professional players in national leagues, or just young kids playing ball on a park district team, nearly always wear them - or at least they should. Responsible motorcycle riders and bicyclists, if they have any sense of self-preservation and safety, wear protective helmets. Equestrians often wear helmets in case of falling off the horse and getting injured. People, whether they are adults or children, on skateboards or skates should be wearing helmets.
As occupational therapists, helmets are sometimes part of our modality of adaptive equipment for certain medical situations. Babies and very young children often wear helmets, under our recommendation and supervision and monitoring for positioning. Some of the older ambulatory children that we see for therapy often wear helmets for protection and safety from injury.
So that brings us to patients on our caseloads that are especially vulnerable to falls. Might a protective helmet lessen the injury on the unfortunate occasion that they might fall, especially if they are living alone at home?
I would appreciate input from other occupational therapy practitioners and people reading this blog about your thoughts about protective helmets for seniors at risk for falling.