Help, I’ve Fallen (and I Can’t Get Up)
“It Isn’t The Fall, It’s The Sudden Stop.” Douglas Adams
Falls in the elderly are scary moments, the heart pounding, breath stealing, light-headed variety. When a senior falls it can be life changing or even life ending. We’ve had our share of falls here. I can’t remember them all. Fortunately, my brain cooperates in forgetting. I realize in that split second things might never be the same. Why worry about falls in the senior population?
Approximately 9,500 deaths of older Americans are associated with falls each year. Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually. http://www.comfortkeepers.com/home/info-center/senior-independent-living/seniors-and-falls-statistics-and-prevention
Falls are extremely dangerous for seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- 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.
Jack Fell Down and Broke His Crown
Dad insists that “never happens to me because I’m strong.” Well, surprise, it does. He fell two nights ago. He wasn’t injured. Many falls go unreported. If my parents fall when I’m not in the room, they attempt a cover-up, though one usually “rats out” the other. Two nights ago I was three feet away, Dad tripped over the size 13 EEE shoes he left in front of his chair. He fell face-fist, on the carpeted bedroom floor. I shudder when I think how easily he could have broken a hip or hit his head.
He fell a few years ago on the kitchen, hardwood floor. He is a big guy, was six feet, three inches, but is a bit less now. His fall sounded like a tree falling in the house. He couldn’t get up. My husband was home we were able to get him to his feet. He denied any pain and kept saying “I never thought that would happen to me.” The next morning he couldn’t get out of bed. He was having back pain. I got him in the car and to the doctor. He had fractured a vertebra. The car ride must have been excruciating but he didn’t complain. Thankfully, they were able to perform an outpatient procedure, injecting the area with a bone glue that raised the collapsed vertebra called, kyphoplasty. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007511.htm. Within a few days he was much better and in six weeks as good as new.
And Jill Came Tumbling After
Mom falls too. Once she got up without help because she was mad. She asked Dad for another blanket. Distracted, he didn’t move fast enough for her. Her attempt at defiance didn’t end well. She, fell, hitting her head on the TV stand. She’s on blood thinners so a huge purple lump formed on her head right away. I iced it, but decided she needed a CT scan. She was obviously bleeding on the outside of her skull. An internal bleed could be deadly. The cat scan showed no bleed. A good lesson for us all, I guess. We don’t make good decisions when we’re mad.
She hasn’t tried again. When she’s confused, she can’t help it. I found her a few nights ago sitting on the toilet, fully clothed. I asked her what she was doing. She replied, “I’m stuck.” I imagine she was. Her walker was on the other side of the room. I asked her how she got there. She said, “I don’t know.” She obviously didn’t know. By the time she was back in bed, the sun was coming up. She was more lucid. I said she was fortunate she didn’t fall. She looked at me with scared eyes and said, “I know.”
Eventually, there will probably be a fall with serious injury. That’s why I never sleep well after one of these incidents. After Dad’s fall this week, I woke up at 5 AM thinking they were calling me. It was a dream but I couldn’t go back to sleep. A senior who falls once is at high risk for repeat falls and it’s scary.
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