As a physical therapist for over 30 years, I have found that the holiday season has no age, sex or socioeconomic bias when it comes to falling. The concern, is not so much the injury, but to the extent of the disability created and who ultimately is affected.
Have you ever been holiday shopping, tripped and fallen carrying several big bags at once? Have you attended a holiday function, wearing those gorgeous high heels, and taken a spill? Or do you know someone who has fallen off a ladder or tripped and fallen carrying heavy luggage down the stairs? If not, I’m sure you know someone who has tripped and fallen over those awkwardly placed extension cords, just to get the lights in the right place.
These are just a few scenarios I’ve heard over the years, which takes no prisoners when it comes to who will fall. But the fact remains, how devastating is it to your health and social schedule?
If you are a housewife, businessman or student and you fall, sustaining a cut, bruise or even a fracture, you seek medical attention and make the necessary adaptations and continue with your day. If surgery is required, you circle your wagons and call on family and friends to help navigate the many daily changes and you deal with all the inconveniences.
But what about the older adult after a fall? Falling is the number one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over 65 years of age. Every 15 seconds a senior is seen in the emergency room for a fall-related injury. Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again. Each week, there are more than 30,000 adults over the age of 65 that are seriously injured by falling. Each week, nearly 250 older adults will die as a result. Falling is not an inevitable result of aging. Many, if not most, of all adult falls are preventable.
Family members and friends are ultimately affected by the long term disability from an older adult fall. Once independence is gone, social gatherings are diminished and physical activity is limited, then a heavy burden is placed on the family unit. Now is the time to seek out the preventable steps for senior falls. It’s easy, cheap and has long term dividends to keeping Mom or Dad healthy, active and social.
Start off with having their medications checked for side effects which may cause dizziness, check vision every year to prevent unnecessary trips, exercise at least 10 minutes a day –everyday because “motion is the lotion for the body” and check the home for safety features. I recommend, at the very basic level, hand grab bars in the shower after the age of 65 years. It’s never to early to start with prevention.
We love our holiday and family times together. It will always be stressful meeting those holiday deadlines whether physically, mentally or emotionally. So, take a deep breath and relax. Stop and think before you climb that ladder, wear those high heals or carry that extra bag and say “No”, not this time.
A turtle will eventually succeed, by just sticking his neck out. So, go the extra mile this holiday season to first, take care of yourself, then extend a loving hand to those around you.