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National Fall Prevention Month

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
09/01/15  5:16 PM PST

This Fall Prevention Month, I’m reminded of my grandfather, who passed away three years ago this September. He died of complications of pneumonia, and was in his mid-90’s. But the year before, he had fallen, due to several factors.

Tools

One of the factors was his cane. He did use one, but it was less a cane and more a walking stick. It was the kind of cane one would use to climb a mountain, not transition from the car to the house. He was very fond of it, and wouldn’t hear of getting a more conventional one. My family and I were worried about his using that cane, but  couldn’t change his mind. Our guess was that using a regular cane would make him look “old” in the eyes of others. We didn’t want to embarrass him, so we didn’t push the matter. Using a proper cane wouldn’t have changed anyone’s impression of him, and would have made getting around much easier.

Home

Another factor was his living arrangement. My grandfather lived alone for about twenty years, up until about the last year and a half of his life. My family was in touch with him every day, but we weren’t there to provide day to day support. He lived on the first floor, but there were two small steps to get up to his apartment. These steps were a hazard.

Illness

In the spring of 2011, my grandfather contracted pneumonia for the second time, though he was unaware of being sick. As it was explained to my family by his doctor, pneumonia causes a drop in oxygen in the blood and brain. This can cause lightheadedness and dizziness, which can lead to falls. His first fall was on the steps leading out of his house, while he was leaving the house to board the senior shuttle. The driver was able to help him up. The second fall happened a week or so later in his living room. He happened to fall a couple hours before my mother and I arrived for a visit. He wasn’t near a phone when he fell, and though we would have been alerted to a problem when he didn’t answer our daily phone call, it would have taken longer for us to get him help. This turned out to be lucky timing, but was alarming to us all just the same.

It was at this point that my grandfather decided to “shut it down,” as he put it – what he meant was stop living alone in his apartment. This was good news to my family, as we were worried about him but wanted to respect his wishes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any contingency plans in place for this kind of decision on his part, which meant that we were searching for a nursing home while in “crisis mode” – both my mom and I needed to get back to work and he was still recovering from the pneumonia.

Make Necessary Changes

This Fall Prevention Month, I encourage anyone at a risk for falls (there’s an easy assessment sheet here) to consider changing how they get around or reassess their living situation. My grandfather was lucky – his fall only resulted in a tweaked shoulder, but had he broken a hip, his prognosis could have been much worse. I also encourage all caregivers to look closely at that assessment sheet, and to keep an eye out for any strange behavior from your caree – if they mention feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or if they’re acting strangely, please get them checked out by a doctor or nurse. And consider discussing a plan for what to do if the current living situation becomes untenable for any reason.

-Aimee, Shield HealthCare

 

You can find more helpful Fall Prevention articles and videos below:

Preventing Falls in the Home: A Safety Checklist

Fall Prevention: Community and Educational Resources

Shield HealthCare Fall Prevention Webinar Video

 

This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not replace the advice of a qualified medical professional.

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