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At 82, Sylvia had already fallen twice, so she was careful to avoid unnecessary risks. When she needed something from a high shelf, she asked her husband to get it for her. She drove instead of walking most places. She was determined to stay on her feet. So, when she fell the third time, it took her completely by surprise. As she pointed out, “It wasn’t like I was out climbing Mount Everest.” She’d simply parked near the library and was walking toward the door when she fell.
Her biggest fear had always been falling at home, when nobody was around. “This was in the middle of the day, in a public place,” she told us. “You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to get help.” But Sylvia ended up lying on the ground for a long time before someone noticed. It was a hot day, and people driving by were running air conditioning with windows closed. Nobody saw her on the ground or heard her cries for help. Two hours passed. Finally, a neighbor with a nursing background saw her and called the paramedics. Sylvia was taken to the hospital for a broken wrist and dehydration.
Sylvia’s story is actually a compilation of stories based on the lifestyles of our senior population. Stories like this happen every day.
The National Council on Aging reports that falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths. Of course, like everyone, seniors should take preventative measures in order to avoid fall risks, such as regular exercise, core strength training and removing fall hazards. Even the fear of falling can be an added fall risk, when it keeps seniors from staying active. But, what about the risks after a fall occurs?
When a person experiences a fall, the full weight of the body can land on just a few points of impact. If the individual is able to get up, he/she may be lucky enough to walk away with some soreness and bruising. But, not everyone is that fortunate. If the individual can’t get up, the injury typically swells, and ultimately pressure sores will form on the tissue due to lack of oxygen. Additional complications can arise from untended injuries, including shock, dehydration, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, kidney failure, lung infections, confusion, hypothermia and more.
When an individual is unable to get up from the ground, it’s important to try to stay warm, keep moving as much as possible, and attempt to summon help. Automatic fall detection technology or even a button wearable can make a big difference in alleviating the time spent on the floor waiting for assistance.
For more information about falls and safety, click here.