The senior in your life lives relatively independently. You’ve been to their home and you know it’s a safe place for them.
Still, one day you get a frantic phone call from your senior loved one that they’ve fallen and can’t get up.
How to lift someone off the floor:
- Stay calm, look for injuries
- Set a chair by their feet and another by their head
- Roll the senior onto their side, help them into a kneeling position
- Have them brace their hands on the chair in front of them
- Help them put a single leg up toward the chair, as if doing knee lunges
- Reposition the other chair behind them until they can achieve a sitting position
In this article, we will elaborate on these tips and general guidelines listed above, going step by step with this fall recovery training.
We’ll also discuss how seniors can help themselves after falling if they’re alone, as well as tips for safe falling.
One note of caution that I’ll repeat in this article…
If you are unable to lift a fallen person off the floor, or if they are in pain, it is best to call emergency services.
They will be able to assess the situation and provide further assistance.
Now, of course the quickest way to help someone off the floor is to simply lift them but that’s not possible in, I would say, 99% of the cases.
Nor is it necessarily safe for the fallen person and the helper.
Follow the steps and safe solutions that I’ve outlined below so that you can help your loved one and yourself.
What To Do When An Elderly Person Falls Down?
My mom-in-law, who is currently 100 years old and living alone was sitting on the edge of the bed when she fell to the floor. The bed is too high for her and she simply just slid down!
She had to wait an hour for someone to come help her.
When someone remains on the floor after falling for a long time, it’s called a “long lie“. It’s more of a common occurrence than most people imagine.
Most every family member who has a senior loved one in their life worries about them falling, and they should be.
Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Let’s say you did get that dreaded phone call from your elderly parent or another important elderly person in your life.
You’re happy to hear your senior is conscious and talking, but your mind races with the possibilities of what injuries they may have sustained.
- Did they break a hip or fracture a bone?
- Are they bleeding or maybe even concussed?
When you hear the news about the fall, either from them directly or someone else, obviously you should make it a point to get to your senior immediately.
You should do so even if they say they’re all right.
Why? For one thing, they may not be able to get up, in which case you would have to assist them.
Also, the senior may have worse injuries than even they are aware of.
As we’ve discussed in other articles on this website, falls can kill an elderly person.
Plus, a senior who falls once is more susceptible to having another fall in the future.
Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
Once you’re with your senior, you have two options:
- get them immediate medical treatment or
- wait until later to do so if they don’t have a serious injury, such as a broken bone.
I personally opt for calling for medical attention but that is a call that depends largely on your own specific circumstances.
Who To Call When An Elderly Person Falls
In most cases, when an elderly person falls, you will call for an emergency responder by contacting 911.
Please be sure to treat the following as emergencies they are, so the senior can be transported to the hospital immediately:
- If your senior is bleeding badly
- If they have severe bruising
- They are complaining of extreme body pain
- They are complaining of a headache and/or being dizzy (signs of a concussion)
- If they are having difficulty communicating
- If they are unconscious or in and out of consciousness
Even if it turns out their injury wasn’t as bad as anticipated, it’s better to be a little overcautious in these situations.
If you don’t think the injury warrants immediate hospitalization, then you should still call your primary care doctor and set up an appointment for either that day or the next.
More than likely, your senior didn’t fall without any consequence, so they should get a look-over from a medical professional.
How To Lift Elderly Off Floor – Step by Step
The following steps are to be taken ONLY if YOU are capable of the procedure.
In other words, do not attempt to lift a person off the floor if you are not strong enough, or flexible enough or safe enough to perform the task.
You may end up injuring yourself and further injuring the person who fell.
Many family caregivers make the mistake of attempting to help their loved one only to end up making the situation much worse.
Before you begin helping anyone off the floor after they have fallen, you want to make sure that you won’t be injuring them more.
What I mean is if they injured themselves in such a way (i.e. fractured a hip or severely pulled a muscle) you could incur further injury by helping them to get up.
So, the first set of steps is always to stay calm, help the person on the floor to get calm and assess them for serious injuries.
Step #1: Control your own nerves
You’re going to feel understandably upset when your senior falls. However, they will feed off your energy in a situation like this.
If you go into this all freaked out, your senior may get more anxious and overwhelmed themselves.
Step #2: Calm the senior
Focus on how your senior is doing instead. If you can, get them to take slow, calming breaths until they feel better.
You want to make sure that you have good communication between the two of you. They must be able to follow your instructions.
Step #3: Look for injuries
From where they are on the floor, check them over for signs of injuries. You can’t see broken bones in most cases, but you will certainly notice scrapes, bleeding, abrasions, and bruises.
Ask your senior about their pain level, as well. Avoid touching any areas that cause immense pain.
If they experience severe pain while you attempt to help them up then STOP and call 911 immediately. Keep your senior loved one as comfortable as possible until the paramedics arrive.
DO NOT move the person if they have or complain of a head or neck or back injury! Instead, call 911 immediately.
Step #4: Clear the surrounding area
If there is any debris nearby, clear this first. It could be spilled water, broken glass, items that were knocked off a table, etc.
Whatever may have fallen with them, clear it away to make the surrounding area as safe as possible.
Step #5: Position your chairs or furniture
If there are no injuries and the person on the floor is not experiencing severe pain then you can begin the process of helping them up.
If they fell near a sofa or coffee table or sofa chair – you can use these pieces of furniture to help you to help them to get back up. The steps to do this are the same as if using the chairs that we talk about later on in this article.
But if they fell in the middle of the floor with no furniture near them then you’ll need to position two sturdy chairs by them. (Or any other set of sturdy objects.)
Put one chair up by your senior’s feet and the other by their head. These must be chairs with non-slip feet – such as kitchen or dining chairs – work best for this.
Note: I recommend using a gait belt (like the one on this page) vs. any type of belt around the waist of the person on the floor. You can use their clothing (as we show on the video) – it just depends on their weight and your strength to help them up.
Step #6: Roll your senior onto their side
By putting a hand by their head and another lower down on their body (or on the belt or clothing as I mentioned above), you can turn the senior over on their side. Do so gingerly to avoid exasperating any small injury they may have.
Position the upper leg slightly in front of the lower leg while they are laying on their side. And their upper arm should be bent at the elbow with their hand placed flat on the floor to help them push themselves up onto a kneeling position.
I will repeat – DO NOT move the person if they have or complain of a head or neck or back injury! Instead, call 911 immediately.
Step #7: Reposition one chair (or furniture)
There should be either a chair or piece of furniture (as I mentioned above) close to their head. They will be using this to lean on during Step #7.
Step #8: Get your senior in a kneeling position
If there is no carpeting or the floor is very hard, put a folded towel down beneath the senior’s knees to make it more comfortable as they push themselves up to get into the position where they are on all fours and then eventually just on their knees.
As you kneel by their hips, place your hands on their hips or use the gait belt to help them.
Ask them to push themselves up with their arms – as they do this you can help to raise their hips so that they end up on all fours with both palms and both knees on the ground.
At this point, you may have to bring the chair or furniture that is closest to their head as close to them as possible.
When they feel comfortable, they can then place one hand at a time onto the chair or furniture that is in front of them to help them up onto their knees.
If you cannot move the piece of furniture (if they fell by a sofa) then, if possible, help them to crawl, on all fours, towards the sofa.
It needs to be close enough for them to place both hands on it and help themselves to stand up.
Once they have pushed themselves up and are kneeling (instead of on all fours) wait a few minutes.
Make sure they feel comfortable before you move forward. Some older adults experience dizziness at this time so you want to take things slow.
Step #9: Move the second chair into place
While they are kneeling, reposition the second chair (the one at their feet) so it’s behind them and close to their body.
When they eventually stand up you will be guiding them onto that chair to sit so make sure it’s close enough to their buttocks so they can sit down safely.
Step #10: Get one of the senior’s legs up
When your senior is ready, ask them to lift their stronger leg so it is extended in front of them, with their foot placed flat on the floor (as if they were kneeling on one leg and ready to rise with the other leg).
Before you ask them to do this, make sure they feel they have enough strength in at least that one leg to achieve this.
Step #11: Guide the senior into the second chair
As they push themselves up with both arms and their strong leg (and eventually both legs) you will be guiding them and helping them to get to a seated position by holding onto the gait belt or clothing.
Your senior should be mostly be in a standing position now. With the chair behind them close at hand, they can collapse backwards and sit safely on the chair.
From there, you can now review their injuries in more depth.
How To Lift A Heavy Person Who Has Fallen
What if the elderly person in question is heavier? If they outweigh you, it makes handling them difficult.
Again, if you do not feel you have the strength or flexibility to manage helping them to safely get up off the floor, we strongly recommend that you call 911.
Otherwise, you can try following the above steps, but if you find you cannot roll the senior over onto their side, then it’s not worth proceeding.
You could injure yourself while aiding them, thus rendering you unable to provide care for the senior in the immediate future.
As an example, my parents were close friends with another elderly couple and the man had Parkinson’s. He was over six feet tall, while his wife barely topped five feet in height.
Near the end of his life, he fell several times due to advancing Parkinson’s symptoms, which made him unable to assist her when she tried to help him up.
Wisely, she called 911 after each fall and the EMTs were able to get him up. If she had helped him by herself, he may have fallen again, injuring both of them.
In a related story, my father did not call 911 when my mom was coping with her brain tumor. He tried to help her into the bathroom when she could still walk, but was rapidly losing control of her legs.
They both fell (in his defense, he was 93 at the time). Thankfully, neither was injured, but Mom never trusted him to help her again and called hospice for a wheelchair the next day.
What Are Some Things To Avoid When Lifting An Elderly Person?
Here are a few things to avoid when lifting an elderly person:
1. Never attempt to lift anyone from the floor if they appear to be injured or disoriented. Instead, call for medical help or 911.
2. Do not try to lift them by yourself if they are very heavy. Get someone to help you, or use a lifting device such as a hoyer lift or a mangar cushion.
3. Do not jerk or pull the person when lifting them – this could cause them pain or injury.
4. Make sure you have a good grip on the person before you start to lift them.
5. Do not twist your body when lifting – keep your back straight and use your leg muscles to lift.
6. Put the person down gently, rather than dropping them or letting them fall.
If you follow these simple tips, you should be able to lift an elderly person without causing them any pain or discomfort.
Living Alone? How Can You Get Up Off The Floor?
What if you are alone and you have fallen? What if your senior loved one lives alone and they’ve fallen? What to do?
This can be a horrifying, even potentially fatal situation.
To illustrate, the Christmas before my mom was diagnosed with her brain tumor, she tripped while coming in from the garage.
She fell on the tiled kitchen floor, breaking her shoulder.
My father was out playing bocce, so she was alone when she fell.
Mom couldn’t roll over to get up because she was laying on her broken shoulder and it was too painful for her to move.
As a result, even though the phone was on the counter just three feet above her, she had to lay on that cold tile for more than an hour before Dad came home.
The steps below are addressed to you but of course, the same steps apply for a senior person in your life so we recommend that you review these steps with them.
Steps To Take To Get Up If You Are Not Injured
Step #1: If you feel any pain anywhere in your body – it’s best not to try to move due to the fact that you may further injure yourself.
Step #2: If you feel dizzy or nauseous when you do attempt to get up, it’s best to contact someone or 911.
Reason being that if you feel dizzy as you start to get up you may end up falling down again and causing injury or further injury.
Step #3: Remain calm and rest a few minutes on the floor – it will help you assess your physical being and compose yourself. After all, falling down quickly can be jarring.
Step #4: If you’ve decided that there are no injuries and you are feeling well, roll onto your side.
Step #5: Slowly push yourself up with your upper arm to get yourself up into a doggy position with both hands and knees on the ground.
If you have a mobility aid such as a cane or walker, make sure to keep it within reach. If you fall, you may be able to use it to help prop yourself up.
Be aware that some canes and walkers have rubber tips that can provide extra traction if needed.
If you don’t have a mobility aid, see if there’s anything nearby that you can use, such as a chair or table.
NOTE: Make sure that whatever mobility aid or piece of furniture you use – that it’s sturdy and won’t topple over.
Step #6: Now that you are kneeling by your piece of furniture, raise one leg up so that your foot is on the ground – both hands are still on the piece of furniture.
Push yourself up with your leg until both feet are on the ground. Hands are still on the furniture.
Step #7: Slowly turn yourself around so that you can either lean against the furniture you’ve been holding onto or you can sit on it.
Step #8: You certainly should try to assess why you fell in the first place and make changes to avoid that from happening again, if possible.
Step #9: If you feel that you need someone to assess you, do not hesitate to contact your physician or 911.
Steps To Take IF You Fell And You Are Injured
Step #1: Again, it’s important for for you not get upset or panicky, as you may injure yourself further if you try to move and have neck or head or back injuries.
Step #2: Take a moment to think through the situation before trying to move.
Step #3: Next, look around for nearby hazards. These include such things as spilled liquids and shattered glass.
Obviously, you want to keep away from items like these.
Step #4: After reviewing your surroundings, you should, as best as you can, review the state of your injuries.
- Can you stand up or (like my mom) are you in too much pain?
- It’s not smart to try to get up if it hurts to move.
- That said, if at all possible, you want to try to get to your feet, and then call 911 for medical attention.
Note: This is where an Alexa device or medical alert device may come in handy.
Step #5: If you find that you cannot get up, try to make noise, such as banging or knocking on a wall or on the floor with a heavy object (or your hands if no such object is around).
This might possibly grab the attention of a neighbor. Also shout if you feel able.
Step #6: If the phone is in the room with you, try to slide or crawl towards it (again, assuming you are not too injured to try this).
If you do not already have a medical alert system and you live alone, we recommend that it’s time to get one.
Be pro-active and get a Medical Alert Device like LifeFone or Life Alert.
An alternative (or in addition to a medical alert device) is to place Alexa devices throughout the home.
You can use the Alert A Buddy skill on Alexa which when activated by saying “Alexa – Ask My Buddy For Help” will contact all 3 (or more) people that you have set up as “buddies” to be alerted for help.
How To Get Up From A Fall Outside
Uneven pavement, jutting rocks, slippery grass, black ice: let’s face it – outdoor hazards abound.
If a senior loved one has fallen outdoors, you will have to take even greater precautions to get them upright. First, you definitely want to check them over, since outdoor injuries can be very serious.
If you can – and they do not have head or neck or back injuries – you will want to help them scoot or inch along to an area of the ground that’s less dangerous, such as away from the ice, grass, or rocks.
Be sure the ground beneath them is stable enough (maybe even by bringing some chairs out from the kitchen or from the patio). Otherwise, they risk slipping and falling yet again.
Then, you can follow the steps we covered earlier in this article, modifying them as necessary.
In the future, to help prevent falls outdoors, do the following for your senior loved one’s home:
- Use salt or another substance that will melt snow and ice on the pavement around the property.
- Shovel their snow (or pay someone to do it) so it’s not obstructing paths or walkways.
- Get better lighting installed if the entryways and walkways look dim to you.
- Rid the front and back lawn of branches, slippery leaves, and other dangerous debris.
- Consider getting stair handrails installed with non-slip materials.
- For outdoor wooden steps, install Outdoor Anti Slip Treads like the ones made by Handi-Treads which are specifically designed for wooden outdoor steps, decks and other wood surfaces. It’s an aluminum product that the manufacturer states will not rust or wear out.
- For concrete or tile steps – install rubber treads.
How The Elderly Can Fall Safely
The way in which a senior falls is very important, as it can potentially minimize injury.
That said, falls often happen so quickly that you are hitting the ground before you even realize that you are falling, but if it is possible, there are some things people may be able to do to lessen their risk.
Teach your senior loved one these helpful methods for a safer fall:
- Bend the knees and elbows so they are “limp”, in order to prevent injury-causing body rigidity.
- Depending on the direction of the fall, they should move their head to avoid a head injury. If they are falling backwards, they should try to tuck their chin down towards their chest. If they are falling forward, they should turn their head left or right.
- Focus on landing on areas like the thighs, rear, or back. The muscles here can better handle an impact it since they’re meatier.
- Let the fall happen and even roll into it. Trying too hard to prevent a fall can actually cause injury as well.
Fall Prevention At Home In The Elderly
- Get your eyes checked and update prescriptions if needed.
- Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider and ask them to do a fall risk assessment on you. They should also provide you with suggestions of things you can do to prevent falls (for example, recommending exercises to strengthen weak legs).
- Review any medications (including over the counter medications) you are taking with your doctor or with the pharmacist who dispenses them. Some medications can make people sleepy or dizzy, which can increase their chances of falling.
- Ask your doctor to do a blood test to find out your Vitamin D levels. This isn’t usually a standard test, although many people are deficient in Vitamin D.
Being low in D can result in osteoporosis, weak muscles, and bone fractures. While our bodies normally manufacture Vitamin D from sun exposure, older adults do not make it as well as they did when they were younger. Additionally, some medications can interrupt Vitamin D metabolism. Among them are certain cholesterol drugs and some corticosteroids (used for arthritis).
- Many seniors are more sedentary than when they were young. Muscle weakness can lead to a fall, so find a Silver Sneakers exercise program at your local YMCA or locate another exercise program that is geared towards seniors.
- You could also look for balance classes, such as chair yoga or tai chi, to improve muscle strength.
- Get rid of clutter in the home, add railings to both sides of a staircase, make sure lighting in the home is adequate by installing more lights or using higher watt bulbs to make rooms brighter.
- Remove throw rugs, which are a tripping hazard.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom and use anti-slip mats when getting out of the tub or shower.
- If you live in a multi-level home consider either installing a stair lift or a home elevator to avoid possibly falling on your steps.
- If you must use steps, add anti slip stair treads to them.
We have more recommendations in our article on How To Fall Proof A Home For Elderly Parents.
Equipment That Can Help To Lift Someone Off The Floor
Other options to lifting someone off the floor is to use an emergency lifting tool. There are basically two types of tools that you can use…
- Lifting Cushions
- Portable Lifts (aka Hoyer Lifts)
We often recommend the Mangar Lifting Cushion simply because it’s a very sturdy and reliable product. It only weights 8 lbs so it’s portable enough for most people to handle.
When choosing a lifting cushion, make sure to pick one that is rated for the weight of the person you’ll be helping. The Mangar Cushion can lift up to 980 lbs.
Read more about the Mangar Lifting Cushions here.
Low Cost Lifting Cushions
If the cost of lifting cushions are too much for you, you can try a less expensive option which could be either of these two:
An air mattress can work very well. You can roll the person on the floor onto the deflated mattress and then begin to pump it up with air. I would recommend a mattress that raises as high as possible to get them into a sitting position.
The iDOO Air Mattress with a built-in pump may work for you.
Two downsides of this is that you need the space on the floor to blow up a twin mattress and there is no back support.
Blow Up Chair
Another similar option would be a chair that you can blow up with air. You would use it the same way as you would the air mattress.
An option you can consider is the Intex Inflatable Empire Chair.
These two options will cost you less than a proper lifting cushion but remember that they are not intended for this purpose and they may not last as long and may not work as well.
One recommendation I can make is to discuss using these with a physical or occupational therapist before you make the purchase.
Portable Lifts / Hoyer Lifts
Hoyer lifts are manual lifts that are often used in hospital and rehabilitation settings. You should also see them in nursing homes as well.
Although you can certainly purchase one for your home, they are large and clumsy to use so you would need a good amount of space to maneuver them and store them.
But, they definitely do the job!
The Raizer Lift Device For Home Use
This portable device requires no batteries, nor does it need to be plugged in.
Once the pieces are placed under the person on the floor, the user simply turns the crank to lift the person up to a sitting position.
The Indeelift Human Floor Lift
Used mostly in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and rehab facilities, the Indeelift Human Floor Lift is exactly as it is called.
It’s a lift that is placed under the person who has fallen to bring them up to a seated position where they can then stand on their own.
A great tool that can be a life saver for many older adults and frankly speaking, can certainly help some to age in place at home longer. Read more about Indeelift here.
This article has affiliate or sponsored links. If you buy something through those links we may earn a small commission. This won’t cost you extra. We only recommend things we really think are good, not just to make money. For more details, see our Affiliate Disclaimer.