On last week's post about loneliness versus solitude, long-time TGB reader Darlene Costner left a comment about how quickly a fall can occur and one way for old people living alone (unrelated to loneliness) to be prepared for them.
It is a powerful statement and I am repeating it here almost in its entirety. Emphasis is my own:
"I do want to tell those people who say they are going to die anyhow so why have a panic button that unless they are much braver than I am,” writes Darlene. “I would have given all I possessed to have had one when I fell the first time and broke my hip.The first day of autumn each year is the official Falls Prevention Day of the U.S. National Council on Aging (NCOA). For many years on that day, I have posted information about how to keep ourselves as safe as possible from falling, and here are three good reasons to do that:
"Before I realized I had to get to a phone I sat there wondering how long it takes to die without water. I was in shock at first and must have passed out because when I realized my predicament I was sitting with my back against a cabinet wondering how in the bloody hell I got there.
"I have had worse pain, but it still wasn't fun when I had to move my body so I could roll over on my stomach and crawl to the other side of the room to get a telephone. From the time I fell until help arrived it had taken me 10 hours to get help...
"Another time I fell and to break my fall I instinctively reached for a heavy coffee table made of Belgian glass and it fell on my arm trapping me. I would not have been able to crawl to a phone that time and was soooo glad I could press the panic button around my neck (with the other hand) and help would arrive.
"I do not understand why others have had trouble with them. I have had Alert 1 for years and the only problem I have had was when I accidentally pressed the button and the firemen came and I was surprised to see them. That would not happen with someone who is not hearing impaired because they try to reach you on the phone when you don't answer them asking if you are all right."
⚫ 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
Since my Whipple surgery last June and for the first time in my life I have a dizziness, or vertigo, problem. It occurs most commonly when I get out of bed so I now sit on the edge of the mattress until the room stops spinning.
Sometimes the vertigo turns up for no good reason when I'm walking around the house and I've taught myself to touch a nearby wall, door or piece of furniture until the sensation subsides. It usually takes only a few seconds until I feel steady again.
With one or two exceptions, it is we ourselves who can prevent our own falling. The NCOA has produced a video that, for all its brevity, covers almost everything you need to know about keeping yourself safe at home from falls:
The video makes a visual point of warning against ladders. About 10 days ago, two sets of fluorescent tubes above my kitchen cupboards burnt out. I dragged the ladder from the storage room, climbed up and retrieved the dead bulbs to know what replacements to buy.
Then, THEN it occurred to me that I might be in big-time falling trouble if the vertigo hit me when I was on the ladder. So I saved the new tubes for a 40-something friend who, a few days later, arrived for a visit and installed the tubes for me. It is undoubtedly time, at nearly 77 years, that I turn over ladder climbing to younger people.
Usually on Falls Prevention Day in September, I publish either a long checklist of how to falls-proof your home and/or link to other good information to keep us safe from falling. Here is one of those posts.
Since last autumn I have found another important prevention item I have never seen listed and I have discovered is important.
In addition to and separate from vertigo since the surgery, I am less certain of being steady on my feet. The difficulty in this case is getting my pants on. All my life, I've just stood there wherever I was in the room and pulled them on - one leg at a time, as they say.
You might call it free-styling with nothing to support myself when I'm on one leg. I considered it a daily exercise to improve my balance, but no more. The mild unsteadiness I feel sometimes in general, multiplies when I'm on one leg.
So now, I sit down to pull on my pants or, at the very least, lean against a wall or counter. This, I believe is an important addition that has been overlooked in the lists of falls prevention items.
Darlene's powerful testament reminded me that given the statistics, twice a year is not too frequent to remind ourselves about falls prevention. The life you save may be your own.