Meridian Star


July 14, 2013

After the fall is over

MERIDIAN — We are living in an age of “It’s all about me!”

    How often do we hear people say they don’t expect their children to take care of them when they get older. Maybe just as often, we hear them say “I’ll never go into a nursing home.” or “My son would never make me leave my home.”

    Just the other day I was picking up the mail and obviously not looking where I was going, as the next thing I knew I was trying to stop myself from falling to the ground. (I thought I could stop and right myself before actually hitting cement) Somehow I slid into first, skinning my arm rather than breaking a wrist, no more hurt than a bit of embarrassment. I’m wondering now if that "learning how to fall" class we had at the center, helped me. I could have broken a hip.

    For years, I would see one of our card players walking down Highland Avenue on her way back to the center. She must have walked a mile at least before she sat down to play bridge. Then one day I learned that she had lost her way driving and then later, that she had fallen in her home and broken her hip. Well we know what usually happens then, after surgery they have physical therapy and recuperation in a swing bed unit which can be at the hospital or in a nursing home.

    Now, this lady is in her 80s. The only exercise she did was walk — but she did a lot of it. And she had a very quick mind. Our strength training instructor might wonder: If she had taken our class and lifted some weights, she might have had strong enough bones to survive a fall.

    My mother had Parkinson’s disease and after every fall she took, her mind couldn’t handle it; she just mentally wandered away. After a while in a wheelchair, she’d begin to be her old self again. Until another fall.

    Some people feel that the dementia that comes in older years comes from a lack of socialization. Seniors often turn down social events because they are having trouble with incontinence and/or bowel control. Their medicines make them sleepy so after eating supper they go right to bed. Ever notice how dark some houses become after 8 p.m.? Some seniors resist social events because they cannot hear well enough, or they can’t see as well driving in the evening light.

    There is much advice on the internet: As we get older it takes longer for bones and the body to mend. Osteoporosis is a common ailment in the elderly. This is something the doctor can check for you and prescribe medicine if needed. Elderly patients can develop pneumonia and blood clots in the leg veins that can travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) due to prolonged bed rest after the hip fracture. Osteoporosis has even been linked with an increased risk of death. Some 20 percent of women with a hip fracture will die in the subsequent year as an indirect result of the fracture.

    That’s enough information to make me want to do whatever I can in prevention. With my mother, we removed all the throw rugs, put handlebars in the bathtub and made sure there was no interaction between the medications she was taking that might make her drowsy. Animals were kept outside so they would not trip her. I kept small items off the floor (such as house shoes) that she might trip over.

    For myself, I am taking yoga classes to improve my balance and doing a little weight training to strengthen my bones (when I can). We simply cannot be too careful.

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