My wife has fallen ... badly. I visit my 99 year-old Mom at an assisted living home full of stories of falls. I still hurt from an old fall. I don't think falls are a disease. I have dreams of anti-falls action as part of an old-folks organization called The Old Codgers that might be part of Rural System.
"Hey! Don't fall down." That what parents used to say. It means more than ever when you reach a ripe age. An amazing number of people are hurt each year from falls. There are lots of reasons why falls occur. All are not "just an accident." Most can be prevented and they need to be, no foolin'. They hurt. They break bones and it takes a long time for old bones to knit. Bones produce good blood cells and we need all that we can get as we get older.
The death rate (about 37/100,000 in 2003) from falls has risen for old people (65 and older) since the 1990s. People are living longer and those have chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease. Falls are the 24th worst cause of death among the elderly.
The ways to reduce falls (some of these are from the U.S. Center for Disease Control):
- Clean up the stairs. Don't leave stuff on the steps. It just makes sense. You'll trip over stuff!
- Get rid of the pretty throw rugs. You can hardly keep them from slipping, even once, eventually. The one time that they slip can be the disastrous one. "Pretty" is not worth the risk of a fall.
- Need warm feet? Get a big rug that will not slip.
- Don't wear socks! They are slippy things. Wear rubber sole slippers.
- Don't climb up on things. Even young people fall off of things. Step-stools and ladders are valuable, but get rid of them in the house. They are dangerous. Put things within reach. Get a "reacher-tool" for less than a dozen bucks. It is cheap compared to the price of a hip replacement. Out of reachis a label for a fall.
- Exercise your ankles (twisting, turning, standing on tip-toe, bouncing on tip-toe, rocking back and forth sideways while standing) to keep them strong.
- Install grab bars next to the toilet, bath, and at the doorways. Not pretty or too expensive? Compared to a medical bill?; compared to the beautiful roof of a hospital room? Install them.
- Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub and shower floor. News flash !! Soapy, wet floors are slippery!
- Get things well-lit. Keep them well-lit. Put the switches within reach or, better, install a motion detector so that you do not have to remember to hit the switch. You get light when you walk within the dim areas.
- Install strong handrails on the staircases.
- Slow down!
- Dizzy? Tell someone. Get it checked by the doctor.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Get someone to carry stuff for you. (awkward or heavy packages prevent you from grasping the aids that keep you from falling). They are not helping you (we know you do not want to be "helped"); they are preventing a fall.
- Get your eyes checked and corrected. Wear sun glasses in the open sunlight. Not seeing things that trip (TTT) may be the cause of falls, not the things themselves.
- Large pets can bump you or cause tripping. Consider whether the pleasure of pets is worth the risks from surprise moves, tripping, bumping, and slips related to their food and water.
- Carry a cane, especially for going over irregular ground outdoors.
- No matter what Granny told you, if you do fall, apply ice to the bruised place for 2 hours to reduce bruising. After that, (if you do not see a doctor and get specific advice) start using heat on the bruised spot(s). Don't take aspirin for the pain associated with the bruise until after seeing or discussing that action with a doctor.
Tending someone who has fallen and has an injury is tough duty. Fix up the place; go over the above suggestions. It will be worth it over the short- as well as long-run.