Are you age 65 or older and live at home? If so, in any given year, you have almost a one in three chance of falling. If you live in a care home, you have a 50 percent chance.
This is not to be taken lightly. Little kids fall all the time and bounce right up - their bones are still pliable. Old people's? Not so much and a broken bone, even a bad bruise, can lead to disability. Here are some statistics about elders and falls (emphasis is mine):
⚫ Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall
⚫ Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths
⚫ Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults
Today, the first day of autumn, is the annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day and as we do here every year at this time, we remind ourselves to take stock of how to protect ourselves from this particular danger.
For elders who live independently, most falls happen at home.
Before I get rolling on this topic, here is a short video from the National Council on Aging about preventing falls. It's a little too cutesy for me, but it has the basic information you need to keep in mind to help you stay safe from falls:
For such a short piece, that video covers the preventable causes of falls quite well and the beginning of this new season is a good reminder to correct the problems in your home that might trip you up.
Two unexpected things changed after my Whipple procedure surgery in June: I lost my taste for sweet things (not that I don't eat them but they are no longer something I crave) and my balance, which had always been good, has become shakier.
For the first time, I now have a mat in the tub so not to slip while showering and I have taught myself, especially when I get up from a chair or bed, to hang on to something for a few moments until I feel steady on my feet.
You might like to take a mental inventory to see if such things may have changed for you.
Here is a list of websites about most of the hazards and preventions we should check for and correct once a year:
Few of these and other well-meaning instructions mention an important hazard we discussed in August – running children.
”Suddenly, two boys – maybe seven, eight or nine – ran full tilt down the hallway, brushing the old man's cane arm as they scooted by and then, making a course correction, nearly bumped into my wheelchair.
“I don't recall any previous time when I was frightened in just that way. I immediately pictured myself and the wheelchair tipped over on the floor of the hallway, my incision ripped open with blood pouring forth.”
This post drew a lot of comment and several of you mentioned the additional problem of adults looking at cell phones while walking and bumping into people. Here's my free advice about that:
If you use a cane, a walker or a quarterstaff, take it with you every time you leave the house. One reader commented in August that they also work well as defensive devices when out and about.
Another useful device is a medical alert system that will notify a response team if you have fallen and can't get up. (Yes, I agree, those TV commercials are awful.) There are many different systems to choose from and some may not be as reliable as anyone would want or need.
One place you can check is the reviews.com page about these devices. They say they have carefully checked and tested many systems and give reasons for their recommendations so you might want to consult them. Just so you know, their About page notes:
"If you buy our picks, we'll often make money on that purchase. That is how we can stay in business...We pledge that we'll never name a top pick that's not truly great even it'd mean a bigger payout for us."
As always, be careful where you shop online.
Most of us at this blog are too old to risk falling so let's all be safe out there, just as Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) used to say every week on Hill Street Blues.