Avoiding the ER and other dismal places

Gravity will have its way with older people. We fall.

We end up in the ER with broken skulls and spines, smashed hips, fractured forearms, and so on into Crunch City. Falls seem so simple, it’s hard to believe that people die from them or end up disabled or afraid to go out of the house. It’s not as if we were taking headers from a trapeze. But it doesn’t take distance or speed to break important parts of ourselves. You  may not believe it if you haven’t yet taken a header, but falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among geezers.

How does it happen? Think rugs, tubs, ladders, curbs, wires, plant pots, steps, dogs, cats, sidewalks and anything we can’t see and don’t expect. I fell hard over a speedbump in a parking lot. Head up, looking for my car, I didn’t see the change in the pavement. Wham. Broke my sunglasses on my cheekbone and had a black eye the size of a sunflower.

And the statistics—imagine 1.8 million older people treated in ER for falls in 2005—well, they don’t tell the whole story. The statistics are just the people who swallowed their pride and took their broken wings to the hospital. But many more older people took a tumble, hid the fact and never made  it into the statistics.

You don’t have to crack yourself wide open

What’s hopeful is that falls are preventable, not a sentence from fate. Their causes are well known and can be avoided. Whoever you are and no matter what your age, fall prevention should be a lifetime skill.

Causes of Tumbles

Unsafe Conditions: Think throw rugs, loose cords, stairs with no rails, pets, bathtubs with no grab bar, ice and wet floors. That’s for starters.

Medications: Think tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and antihistamines. If those make you dizzy or out of it, talk with the doc about med choice and dosage. If you take many medications, bring them to the doc and see if any can be eliminated or reduced.

Alcohol and pot: If you are drinking or smoking to the point of unsteadiness or inattention to what you are doing, you are a candidate for a tumble. Ease up.

Reduced Vision: If you can’t see well, please get new glasses. If they are too expensive, put new lenses into the old frames—that’s if the old frames are still sturdy and your kids approve of your snappy geezer image in the recycled frames. Or go to a warehouse store with an eye care department that won’t cost an entire month of Social Security.

Lack of Strength: Legs can lose their muscle over time. One way to build strength is to get up and down from a chair. Up, down. Up, down. Sounds silly, but it wakes up the thigh muscles.

Meanwhile, only go horizontal if it’s on purpose.


Photo courtesy of Oregon State University Archives

2 thoughts on “Avoiding the ER and other dismal places”

  1. Another wide-spread cause of falls among those of us over 60 is
    sleep deficiency. Hey! I used to be rarin’ to go with 8 hours. Maybe even 7. What’s this? I got 8 solid last night, and I’m kinda wobbly today. Maybe even weaving down the hall. I need more! Test yourself. Can you go to sleep a bit earlier? Sleep in? Try it. You may be steadier on those safely-shod feet.

  2. A cautionary tale and essential advice. Must remember to wake up my thighs! Such a beautiful photograph – but we all need to be reminded and reminded again that One Good Fall does NOT deserve another. Thank you!

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