The worst fall I ever took was on April 1, 2008.
How am I so certain of the date?
I am certain because I was scheduled to have cancer surgery that morning.
I had spent the night in an upstairs bedroom in my daughter's home. I started down the stairs at 5:00 a.m. to head to the hospital, carrying an overnight bag and my dirty laundry.
That was a big mistake.
I slipped at the top of the stairs and fell the full length – about 16 unpadded steps, with a wrought iron rail and big potted plants at the foot of the stairs. Not pretty.
It was April Fool's Day and I had done something foolish.
Thank God I have strong bones. Twice, when I have had bone density tests, I tested the highest the doctors had seen. I have years of drinking milk to thank for that.
The result was no broken bones, just a huge lump on my forehead and some nasty bruises, mostly on my backside. But the worst part was that the hospital refused to operate on me that day for fear that I might have a head injury that could affect the way I responded to anesthesia. Although a scan showed nothing, they were taking no chances. My surgery was rescheduled for the following week.
Since then I have tried not to be a Humpty-Dumpty.
A few years earlier, my daughter-in-law, aged 47, who had recently been diagnosed with late onset Muscular Dystrophy, fell down four concrete steps off her back porch, onto a concrete patio and suffered a fatal head injury.
There were no rails on the steps to help support her. Falls by people suffering debilitating disease, or by the elderly with brittle bones, are serious and should be prevented at all costs.
Most senior citizens, taking a fall such as the one I took, would not have been as fortunate.
Statistics show that one out of three people over age 65 take a fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. They are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
There are many steps that can be taken to prevent falls.
My husband fell twice in the past few months just walking across the room. He had a habit of not wearing shoes in the house and we finally figured out that the problem was that he had developed a "drop" of his big toe on one foot. He was stubbing this droopy toe, causing him to fall.
The solution was to buy a GOOD pair of hard-soled house slippers. He hasn't fallen since he started wearing them.
Throw rugs should be removed from rooms used by the elderly, grab bars should be installed around tub, shower and toilet areas, and if stairs must be used, rails should be installed on BOTH sides of the stairs.
Regular exercise can be of great help in improving balance and increasing body strength. Many senior centers offer strength-training classes at little or no cost.
All the King's men couldn't put Humpty-Dumpty together again.
Likewise, the doctors are not always able to put elders back together after a fall either.
A neighbor, who seemed strong and steady on his feet, was out for a walk and fell, breaking his hip. During his hospital stay he developed pneumonia, from which he did not recover.
Complications are not unusual in the elderly. Their immune systems are not able to fight off infections, often resulting in death.
The answer is to prevent falls from happening. Whether you are a caregiver or an aging adult living alone, take a good look around your home and eliminate trouble spots.