Several days ago as we were driving off the Cloister property we drove by a Fire Truck in front of a neighbor’s home on the next block. It couldn’t be very serious because one of the Firemen was still sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck. I stopped alongside and called to the fireman through his open truck window. “I bet that you come here a lot”.
He looked down, and smiled, “I’ve been here so many times that I could drive to The Cloister with my eyes shut.”
Months ago I had come home after Knee Replacement Surgery. I had started to use crutches allowing me greater mobility around the house after weeks on a walker. Bonney had gone shopping and I was “Home Alone”. I wanted a soft drink and they were in the garage in a carton on the floor.
I went to the garage, and leaned on a trash can as I bent down to grab a Coke. The trash can was on wheels and rolled out under my weight. In a fraction of a second I fell forward on to my knees, chest, and face. Blood began flowing out of my head, nose, and mouth into an expanding pool of blood.
I thought, “My God! Have I dislocated either of my artificial hips or damaged my new knee?” I laid there bleeding as I moved each lower limb and checked that I hadn’t broken a wrist or arm. As the blood pored from my face into my eyes and onto the floor my limbs seemed OK. I told myself, “I better do something or else Bonney will find me dead in a giant pool of blood.”
The problem! I could not get up. My knees hurt so much I could not lift myself onto my knees. I tried to lift myself using the small chest freezer but my bloody hands kept on slipping on the surface of the freezer top. The freezer top and sides were now streaked with blood.
I realized I needed to get into the house where I could lift myself onto a couch or bed. I turned onto my back and began sliding, pushing with my feet, across the garage floor , over the doorjam, and into the great room to the couch. A bloody trail followed me and I kept wiping the blood from my eyes. I pulled one of the cushions from the couch to the floor. I could now pull myself up to the open area where the cushion usually sat as I cushioned my knees. I finally was able to sit on the couch.
Not much blood came from my head or mouth but blood was poring from my nose. I tore pieces of my shirt to stuff into my nostrils to stem the bleeding and began wiping the blood from the rest of my face, eyes, head and body. “It think I am going to live!”
Many of us at The Cloister have experienced falls.
A summary of 12 studies cites the following most common reasons for falls. The effect of drugs on the elderly, and the difficulties surrounding medication compliance, are also believed to be the root cause for many of falls incidents.
- 55% of all falls take place inside the home.
- More than three-quarters take place either inside or in close proximity to the home, where a medical alert system can be of immediate assistance.
- More fall injuries are caused by falls on the same level (vs. stairs) and from a standing highlight, i.e. tripping while walking.
- About one third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually.
- As alarming as they are, these documented statistics fall short of the actual number since many incidents are unreported by seniors and unrecognized by family members or caregivers.
- Frequent falling. Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again.
- About half (53%) of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall with in six months.
- Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls.
- Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions, and 40% of all nursing home admissions 40% of those admitted do not return to independent living; 25% die within a year.
- Many falls do not result in injuries, yet a large percentage of non-injured fallers (47%) cannot get up without assistance.
- For the elderly who fall and are unable to get up on their own, the period of time spent immobile often affects their health outcome. Muscle cell breakdown starts to occur within 30-60 minutes of compression due to falling. Dehydration, pressure sores, hypothermia, and pneumonia are other complications that may result.
- Getting help after an immobilizing fall improves the chance of survival by 80% and increases the likelihood of a return to independent living.
- Up to 40% of people who have a stroke have a serious fall within the next year.
- 20% to 30% of seniors fear falling.
- 90% percent of falls that do not result in injury can still have a detrimental impact on health and well-being. 30-50% of elders report that fear of another fall results in loss of confidence and self-imposed restriction of activities, thereby increasing the risk of falls.
Recovering From a Fall
Here is a short video on “How to Get Up After a Fall”:
I am much more careful when I lean on something for support.