While having a one-way conversation with a news commentator Gertrude slipped on a throw rug, landing precariously on the floor.
Result? Gertrude was flat on her back, staring at the ceiling, determining whether it was a blessing or a curse no one witnessed her predicament.
Warnings from friends began fading in and out of Gertrude’s mind. She knew she was getting older and isn’t as strong as she once was. A favorite niece had suggested Gertrude stand taller and resume the posture of her youth. Gertrude refused to wear sensible shoes, preferring open back slippers or a little bit of glamorous heel. New glasses (trifocals) had caused dizzy spells but the previous spectacles had immediately been donated to the Lions Organization. Gertrude’s only recourse was to adapt. Her friends Martha and Elmer had been raving about two new classes, Chair Yoga and Tai Chi, to help improve balance but Gertrude was suspicious of anything not sounding American and declined invitations to join. Gertrude closed her eyes, took a deep breath and folded her arms across her chest. “Good grief! One would think I was dead, posed like this. Probably should not have taken her life-alert pendant off this morning. Who would have thought?”
Realistically, Gertrude’s chances of falling were extremely good.
One of the key risk factors for falls is age. In the United States, 20–30% of older people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, or head traumas. Physical, sensory, and cognitive changes associated with aging increase the risk level of falling. To compensate for this adaptions need to be made in the home.
Medication also affects balance. When combining side effects of a new prescription or changing the dose a change in mobility is not uncommon. Older people are susceptible to a change in cognition or vision. The risk increases should there be a diagnosis involving the neurological system or the heart.
Throw rugs are a particular hazard in homes and often found in high risk areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Basement laundry areas are a danger to anyone. Navigating stairs with an armful of laundry, piles of clutter, poorly lit halls and uneven surfaces in outside areas also pose a fall risk.
Elder falls are decreased when wearing safe shoes with appropriate soles, not slide in slippers or open toed sandals. Ginger Rogers may have worn heels, but she had Fred Astaire to lean on.
“Okay,” Gertrude thought, “guilty on so many accounts. I’ll lead a better life Lord, just get me off of the floor.” A moment of silence and what was that sound? The doorbell, again the doorbell and thankfully, her good friend Martha’s voice. “Are you alright Gert?”
After a ride to the emergency room with sirens blaring Gertrude grudgingly discussed a plan with her physician and family. She would be attending a program with the local Senior Center to identify the fall risks in her home. No longer would there be unlit areas, chairs sitting in pathways or cluttered halls. Gertrude would be making an appointment to review her medications and also take advantage of a balance assessment offered at one of the Health Care Services in town. Elmer’s gift of a cane would come out of the closet and be used. No longer would Gertrude be climbing on chairs to change light bulbs or reach pantry items. The niece who suggested better posture enrolled Gertrude in a muscle strengthening class…and yes, Gertrude would end her misgivings about foreign names and enroll in either Tai Chi or Yoga or both.
Martha has begun the conversation to convince Gertrude to move to a Senior Living Retirement Community. ”Plan ahead and do it.” Having a daily calendar of social activities, events and outings will improve her mental and physical strength. Having caring neighbors and watchful staff will lessen another chance of falling. It’s a possibility. After all, Gertrude had a lot of time to think while lying on the floor. Bridge to Better Living® will soon be hearing from her…it’s a promise.