Fear of Falling
June 20, 2012
Celia fell on Monday and hit her head. Once again, an ambulance came to take her away. Left behind, Alice worries and wonders, just as she did last week when Celia was rushed off in an ambulance. (See Strange Aches.)
So I called all the hospitals today and finally found her. “I don’t know what happened,” Celia said. “”I fell in the living room and woke up and I put my hand up to my head and blood was pouring out. And now here I am. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back.” Her voice sounded young and frightened, like that of a girl trapped in a tower far from home.
“Now I have a hole in my head,” she joked. Both of us tried to laugh, but it didn’t quite work.
I asked if she’d had an MRI and CT scan. She said she’d had both, but she didn’t know the results. The more she described the injury to me — the suddenness of the fall, the confusion on waking up, the blood and fear, the bandage now wrapped all the way around her head and another on her wrist — the more terrible this accident began to sound. I took notes but mentally weeded out what I would and would not tell Alice.
For Celia, the worst part was that she didn’t have her dentures with her. “They’re in the container next to the sink,” she told me. “I didn’t have a chance to put them in.” Not only does their absence make her feel more vulnerable, it’s also difficult for her to eat. I promised I’d call The Place to see what could be done.
Celia takes a lot of meds, so she thought this could have been the cause of her falling. “Sometimes everything goes black.”
Alice has reported these other falls to me, how Celia appears at the dining room table with some part of her body or face black and blue.
Or, possibly, this particular fall was caused by a stroke. We didn’t discuss that. (On the back of one of the bills Alice gave me to pay last week, she had listed a few Celia’s health issues, both recent and ongoing: “Pneumonia, Asthma, Bronchitis, Hole in Windpipe, Thrush, Congestive Heart Failure.”)
Celia is a meek patient and does not ask questions. Her three adult children in their fifties and sixties are useless. “They live too far away,” she told me, excusing them, but I know that one lives within half an hour of The Place and about the same distance from the hospital where Celia is a patient.
I told her Alice can’t wait for the day when she’ll be back in her chair, across the dining room table.
Again, she expressed fear about the possibility she may never get back. Then she added, “I miss her. Tell her. Tell her Hi from me.”
Fifty per cent of people over 80 suffer falls each year. This website is informative and raises awareness.
The environment the elder is in, accidents, and medications all play a role, as do gait and balance issues. Any elder (Elders R US – anybody reading this who is over 65, the age when falls start to happen) who is not taking time to address gait and balance, please check out these simple exercises, and please seriously consider yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, dance, and other balance classes. Let’s stay upright for as long as we can. The alternative hurts, causes friends to disappear for long spells while they heal in hospitals and nursing homes, and, incidentally, costs the health system about $20,000 per fall.
In case you have been living in a cave (or avoiding this video, which, quite truthfully, I have been doing), you might take a moment to imagine Niagara Falls as Old Age (and then just get on with it). And, by the way, Alice watched this on the day it happened and pronounced the stunt “ridiculous,” adding, “What is wrong with that fellow?”