Learning safety tips the hard way isn’t the best way
by Aging in Place: Claudette Hollenbeck
Feb 05, 2018 | 1292 views | 0 0 comments | 68 68 recommendations | email to a friend | print
First thing every morning a good friend and I exchange “ndy” (not dead yet) emails. It is our way to do a safety check-in daily since both of us live alone, without nearby family. Once I forgot, and she was on the phone in no time to be sure I wasn’t lying in a heap on the floor. Safety just has to become a priority, and an important issue once you have lived long enough.

Thankfully, neighbors and friends watch out for one another here. We are not living in an anonymous city environment. Many of us wear those life alert gadgets. Mine is a bracelet instead of the hang around the neck kind (which would get tangled up in my eyeglasses which also hang around my neck). It looks like a kind of clunky watch. People have asked me if it is a “smart watch.” Not likely! I am not smart enough to manage one of those. It operates in a 500 foot radius around my house and yard. Odds are, if I fall or have some health emergency, it will be at home or in my own yard. Several friends and I have put pressure on another friend to get one of these. They cost about $40 a month and she did not feel she could afford it. However, when asked, her children were happy to pay for one for her. It eased their minds considerably.

Unfortunately, we often learn safety tips after an accident happens to a friend. One old friend stepped out her back door onto a wooden deck, slipped on invisible slick ice on the wood, and broke her leg. Another did the same thing on her wooden front steps and broke a wrist. So, I have fiber mats outside on my wooden entry area and I put my little footsie down very carefully whenever the surface is wooden.

Most people I know in my age group now use two poles when walking outside. Balance, or the lack thereof, becomes an issue for lots of us. One pole or a cane would usually be enough if it were not for all the ice, hidden or clearly apparent. The stabilizing effect of two poles can make all the difference, and people sometimes assume you are cross -ountry skiing!

Orthostatic hypotension is the official name for that suddenly woozy feeling you can get when you get up out of a chair or sit up in bed suddenly. All it means is that the blood flow to your brain is interrupted for a brief moment by gravity. It is not something to take lightly. Many people have had devastating falls in that one moment. Our Bone Builder’s instructor cautions all the time about trying to do too many moves simultaneously. Separating out one movement from another gives the body time to adjust. Sit up. Wait. Stand up. Wait. Take a step. Wait. If you need to move sideways, do so and then wait to regain your balance. The wait time is just a small moment but a crucial one. Lurching up out of a chair and turning at the same time may be more than an older body can manage well.

There are classes in how to fall safely. I used to have a work colleague who was forever mumbling, “tuck and roll, tuck and roll,” after she had taken a bad fall while hiking. If you can consolidate and tuck your extremities into your body quickly as you begin to fall, try to land on a meaty section of your body, and then let the momentum finish with a roll, you are less likely to break a bone. Outstretched arms as you fall pretty much guarantee a broken bone. A few years ago I fell face first over the doorsill at my front door. That was probably the moment I jammed up the bone in my left arm into the shoulder socket. It no longer works well. Mercifully I am right-handed and this was my left arm and shoulder. I am much more deliberate now, and aware if I am shuffling instead of picking up my feet.

These are all small, simple things anyone can do to preserve safety and independence. Awareness is the key. In retirement there is nothing so urgent that must it be done in a big hurry.
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