Possumhaw: Fear of falling



Shannon Bardwell



"Therefore, let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." 


-- I Corinthians 10:12 




In the last six months half-a-dozen friends have fallen, including myself. We range in age from 30 to 80. Two of the "fallers" were due to medical conditions, three were carrying groceries, one was due to inattention. The results of those falls varied from a small cut, two compound fractures, facial injuries requiring a cosmetic surgeon and two hospitalizations.  


Fear of falling is called basophobia and is common in varying degrees among humans. I can think of only two occasions of falling. One was my first and last experience cross-country skiing. The skier in front of me hollered, "If you get to going too fast, snowplow." Not knowing what that meant, I figured it meant cover your eyes. The second was recently; after sweetly chiding some of the other fallers, I encountered a buckling sidewalk. I had asked the grocery-fallers, "Why didn't you drop the groceries?" Now I know -- there's no time. You're up, then you're down.  


Providentially, 25-year-old Sarah Barton Cregeen, an occupational therapy student, recently initiated a program on fall prevention for her grandmother's (known as "Grangie") Sunday School class. The statistics are sobering, but take heart, there are prevention strategies. This is what Sarah Barton shared: 


Falls are the leading cause of injury and death among older adults. Falls are more common in women and increase with age. They occur most often in the home, usually the bedroom or bathroom. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the ER for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. About 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized for a fall. Falls are the leading cause of nursing home admissions. Yikes!  


The good news is, falling is not necessarily inevitable with aging, and there's more you can do than just wearing sensible shoes, though that can be helpful. Research shows Vitamin D supplementation reduces falls. Keep moving to work on balance, exercise to build strength and flexibility, have your eyes checked regularly for vision impairment, review medications for side effects of falling. Have your blood pressure checked both while sitting and standing.  


One of many benefits of decluttering is reducing fall risks. Outing the junk, while securing cords, removing scatter rugs and excess furniture in high traffic areas helps. Use nonslip mats and rugs. Good lighting in all areas is a must; use night lights, lamps, lighted switches, stairway lighting. Keep a flashlight handy, especially bedside. Arrange most-used items in convenient easy-to-reach places. 


When caretaking my mother I quickly learned that if there is an assistive device -- get it. That includes grab bars, raised toilet seats, shower seats, hand-held shower heads and hand rails. Sarah Barton's suggestions include a reminder a towel bar is not a grab bar. As an occupational therapist student, she recommends three secure points of contact at all times -- two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot. 


Sarah Barton, a New Hope High School and Mississippi State graduate, describes her career objectives: "I want to provide a lasting impact on my future patients by not only treating their body, but also treating their mind and soul." No doubt she has, and she will.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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