An older woman steps out from an open door. The pavement is littered with warning signs, caution signs, indications of obstacles or things that could cause her harm. A younger woman peeks out from behind the door frame, looking nervous for the older woman.

Help! I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!

That line has become almost a joke in our culture, for being unable to do something that we should be able to do easily. We don’t think it will happen to us. When we are young, we think we are invincible. We think falling is funny. When my son was too little to talk yet, he saw a cartoon asparagus step on a rake, which bopped him in the face, and then fall, end over end, down a hill. He erupted in peals of baby giggles! He found it hilarious all on his own!

It’s not so funny when it means a trip to the ER, a broken hip, or being stranded, unable to get the most rudimentary help for yourself. It’s stressful. It is the need for a contingency plan in your plans. It limits your freedom. It is real. Walking one foot in front of the other, that you have been proudly doing for all but the first few months of your life, is no longer taken for granted.

Falls become more frequent with Alzheimer's

My mom had gone outside to put something in the big garbage can. While she was out there, she thought, “Why don’t I just walk while I’m out here?” She has taken some renewed interest in getting her steps. All 3,000 of them. We talk a lot about “getting steps” in our house. She has been doing pretty well the last few days. I have been very proud of her. She wants to live to be 100, she says. I tell her that she has to get moving then. You can’t sit on the couch all day watching Hallmark. The walking is good for your brain and your lungs and everything else.

It was time for dinner, so I went looking for Mom. She wasn't in her room. She hadn’t told me she was going out. I thought, maybe she is out walking. I looked down the driveway and saw that she was talking to a few of our neighbors. I didn’t think anything of it. She’s friendly and so are they. I asked my husband to ask her to tell her to come in for dinner as he was walking past me to go outside, too. I wasn’t wearing my glasses. He said he thought she had fallen. He had his glasses on.

What?! I try to be vigilant. To foresee problems and fix them before they become disasters. You just can’t control everything. You will go nuts and make enemies if you try. Mom was fine, but her elbow and toes were bleeding. She was laughing about it. She said she gave the neighbors a show! Nothing else seemed to be wrong. I sent her, like a mom sends her kid, to the bathroom to clean herself up. “Wash your elbow thoroughly with antibacterial soap!”

I scrambled with my son to find a chair that she could put in the shower. We used to have one my dad used that Mom found a need for after her surgery three years ago, but Mom tripped over it when we didn’t put it away. That Superman maneuver ended in a trip to the ER and a broken nose. That chair must have gone to the curb immediately afterward. Mom didn’t need to be bending over tending to her bleeding toes and end up standing on her head! We found a plastic and metal folding chair.

Taking precautions to avoid future falls

I bandaged her wounds and later, after a reheated supper, we sat to have a chat. No more walking in those sandals. Her podiatrist would not be happy. As a diabetic, she needs to be careful with her feet. No open-toed shoes. When she walks, she needs to wear her tennis shoes. Also, take her phone with her. And tell me when she is going out. The bruises were starting to show up, now. How long could she have been out there if it hadn’t been supper time? The fall wasn’t that bad, and she got up on her own, but we have to take a few more precautions so it isn’t bad next time.

We talked about her mom, who had one of those alert necklace fobs. She got locked out of her house once. She was so scared! What if no one found her? How long could she be out there? Finally, a neighbor happened along and rescued her. I asked if she pressed the button on the fob. She didn’t know if she had it with her, but she didn't even think about it! Mom didn’t remember that happening to her mom. She has memory problems, and problems with sandals and uneven driveways apparently. Walking is good exercise, but let’s exercise some caution and let someone know where you are. This fall may still take us to the doctor’s office. We’ll see how she heals and how sore she is tomorrow.

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