Several years ago when I still lived in Vegas, I was getting ready for bed when my cell phone rang. Caller ID told me it was my friend Liz. I answered. She said, “I know it is late but I was wondering if you could come by my house.”
Liz lived about 20 minutes away. I was already in my pajamas. I asked, “Is it really important?”
Liz said, “Well, it’s not an emergency or anything, but I have fallen down in my garage and I cannot get up. Something seems to be wrong with my arm and I can’t put any weight on it. I may have dislocated it again.”
I was already pulling my clothes on, but just the same, I told her to dial 911. She refused, saying she was too embarrassed and it just wasn’t important enough to bother them. I got in the car and started driving. When I was ten minute from Liz’s house I told her I needed to hang up the cell phone for a minute, but I would call her right back. Since I was driving she didn’t ask any questions. I disconnected our call and dialed 911. The ambulance and I arrived at Liz’s at the same time.
The paramedics were absolutely wonderful. They helped Liz up and gave her a ride to the nearest emergency room. They made her feel comfortable and kept her laughing and joking. They also did something else very important, they helped her understand that receiving emergency aid doesn’t mean one loses his/her dignity.
These days, Liz is better educated on how to keep herself safe from falling hazards.Now there is nothing in her garage except her car, and her overhead lights are working properly.
The National Council on Aging provides a 12 step procedure for reducing the likelihood of falling in your own home.
- Step one: talk to your doctor and seeking his/her personal recommendations for your unique situation. You should also have your hearing and vision tested regularly.
- Step two: make certain you take all of your medications accurately and responsibility, which includes relating any side-effects — especially that of vertigo — to your doctor immediately.
- Step three: install proper lighting throughout your home, especially making certain to have switches at both ends of hallways and staircases, and maintaining a well lit, clutter-free path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
- Step Four: keep your floor and stairs free of clutter and unsecured rugs.
- Step Five: install at least one handrail (preferably two) on all stairways and steps inside and outside your home. Ensure handrails are securely attached and in good repair.
- Step Six: check that stairs are in good repair and are slip resistant. If any stairs are broken, have them fixed promptly. Add a strip along the edge of each step in a contrasting color to make it easier to see or use reflective anti-skid treads.
- Step Seven: take the same precautions for outdoor steps. In addition, arrange to have seasonal hazards such as leaves, snow and ice removed on a regular basis. Use salt or sand throughout the winter months.
- Step Eight: wear proper footwear. Shoes, boots and slippers should provide good support and have good soles. Avoid loose slippers or stocking feet.
- Step Nine: install grab bars in all bathrooms, by the toilet and in the bathtub or shower. It’s a good idea to have two bars in the tub, one on a side wall and one on the back wall. If you need extra support, consider a bath seat or bench so you can shower sitting down.
- Step Ten: use a rubber mat along the full length in your tub, and a non-skid bath mat beside the tub.
- Step Eleven: use walking aids and other safety devices for extra safety. If you use a cane or a walker, check that it is the right height and that the rubber tips are not worn. Install stainless steel prongs (ice picks) on canes for safe walking in the winter.
- Step Twelve: invest in a personal safety medical alert system.