By Mary Cordova, EVP Business Development, Concierge Care Advisors

Studies confirm what we pet owners already know; pets are a great source of companionship, love, and comfort. Research suggests that pet ownership can be a good thing for the elderly, and although pet ownership can help keep our seniors healthy and happy, it also increases the risk of fall related injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks falls caused by household pets, or pet-related items, and estimates that 1% of all hospitalized falls are due to pets. That calculates to more than 8,000 per day! Additionally, one in three will result in broken bones.
Many of these injuries can be reduced or prevented with some thoughtful planning. Here are some things that can help:

    • Recognize your pet’s habits, because they definitely recognize yours. I have a sweet, little 14-year-old Maltese who loves to curl up on a warm pile of laundry fresh out of the dryer. I think it’s adorable, so I allow her a minute or two before scooting her off the pile. She knows as soon as I’m heading to the laundry room that there may be an opportunity and she will follow underfoot. I recognized a long time ago that carrying a pile of laundry with both hands while dodging a dog at your feet is a recipe for disaster. I took preventative measures and taught her go to her bed until I call her over. Now my laundry gets safely out of the dryer and she still gets a warm snooze.
    • Hire a dog walker. About one-third of pet related falls happen outside the home while walking the dog. If you’re concerned about tripping over your pet’s leash or being pulled down during a walk, look into hiring a dog walker. The extra exercise will likely make your dog calmer around the house, and you won’t have to worry about getting into a possibly dangerous situation.
    • Don’t ever try to step over your pet. Even if your pet appears to be sleeping comfortably, stepping over him or her can cause him or her to rouse and accidentally trip you. If your pet is in your way, make him or her move so you can pass, rather than risking a fall.
    • Make sure your pet has some training. Whether you take a class, hire a professional, or research effective training methods on your own, an obedient pet is much less likely to cause a fall. Establish boundaries with your pet and teach him or her to see you as the master. Doing so will allow you to get potentially dangerous situations under control before an accident occurs.

As a devoted pet lover, I believe that pets can provide a better quality of life. We don’t have four feet on the ground like our furry friends, so taking simple measures can make sure our elders enjoy all the benefits of pet ownership while minimizing the risks involved. Look for upcoming fall prevention events in your neighborhood! September 22-28, 2018 is Fall Prevention Awareness Week and many communities have free events and resources available.