Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Please Help Me I'm Falling-My Home Safety Awakening

Confession time............Today the day that I knew would eventually come has finally arrived. This evening as I was coming home from my Tuesday night class, I climbed the very shallow two steps that lead to my front door (admittedly these steps don't have a railing).  My right, slowly degenerating leg, simply gave out.  There was no warning and I went flying.  Literally, onto the steps and into the large bushes in front of the house before landing in the slow. I  had fallen and could not get up. Or roll over.

Now it may be that I might have been more stable with even a railing next to those steps, who knows. I may have been able to use the railing to help myself get up as well, instead of my son. Again, who knows.  All in all, in most senses this is a mainly one level one house (there is a basement but I don't need to use it) with the exception of these steps and the steps to the garage (where there is a door jamb to hold onto). There are no steps as such to the back patio, but getting from the back patio to the front of the house requires those other two methods.

When we chose this house I knew a ramp might be in our future, just as I knew my going into the basement was not. I just thought that future was further off. And it may well be in the long run. This has not happened before. While the degeneration is an active, moving thing, I spend most of my exercise time not doing aerobics but weight exercises and physical therapy to build muscle around the leg. I walk a full five thousand steps as many days as I can, on land or sea. So it's not like I am walking around with a constant limp or that I don't move. Still, this was a warning to me. And when it comes to health and safety, I believe in listening to those warnings and planning ahead when possible.  

This means, I guess, that I have come to that time in my life where I need to take that extra look around, do a safety check, and make sure I feel comfortable- both in terms of issues like falling and physical safety from intrusion or other issues, frankly. This is especially true since I spend most of my time in and around this house alone. The fact that my son was home at the same time, as well as alert and responsive was pure luck, and my immediate neighbors are all very active coming and going folks-who may or may not be home. 

Whether an omen or luck (I guess it depends) I had recently been doing some research for future blog ideas, and ended up with this safety checklist in my inbox. Since I had already been making some notes, I decided to go with the flow. Let me say that this was just one list, and there are many out there, some of which I have checked out from time to time.

It surprised me to find out that in one study almost 86 percent of us have done nothing to prepare our homes for the future. On the other hand, I was unsurprised to find that falls are the primary cause of injuries and that most of them happen in the the bathroom or bedroom. Every checklist I looked at suggested a room by room check, and then double checking annually thereafter. While I have not done that, I did go over the things that I thought were most import for this person in this house.

There were some precautions on this list that I didn't feel I needed, some that I will need later and some that were probably unrelated to middle age but just general safety issues.  I am not, for example, ready for an alert device by any means. And I am not in need of a buddy system as such as I have family who I see or speak to at some point on a daily basis. My closest friend in Texas has an arrangement where she calls a close friend from our church in the morning, and said friend calls her at an agreed upon time in the evening. If I had no family checking in on me as it was those years I was living completely alone, I would absolutely do that kind of deal.

My home has the basic every day safety things which I double check on twice a year: Pretty much all our outlets our grounded. We have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and small extinguisher (we don't have a gas stove so truthfully this is as much for the grill as anything else). Our home is basically well lit. We don't have alot of throw rugs. I don't do ladders, or snow removal, although I've been known to rake a leaf now and then.

When it comes to physical precautions, I have been taking some, but plan to add more to the list. Because of my general leg creakiness, I have no choice but to stand slowly until I have gotten my bearings and move slowly until the kinks are out. I haven't worn high heels in years, and wear pretty yet conformable and supportive flats. If I have an area of danger, it is that I love to wear fuzzy slipper socks alone around the house, and have gone ice skating briefly a couple times. Because I cannot crouch, I'm rarely in danger of picking up something too heavy! And I am not liable to turn my water temperature down any time soon, hot showerer that I am.

Because no one is perfect and because I sometimes tend to avoid reality, there are things I need to do.  I recently purchased one of those walkers on wheels with a seat. It was not as useful as I thought, except for in those places where I cannot stand. It's an issue of confusion for me that with this degeneration I can walk most days for at least thirty minutes, but standing in one place such as at a concert of church, causes unbelievable pain). However, I have decided that it's time to get one of those traditional walkers. You know, the ones with the tennis balls on front?  I'll buy it kicking and screaming, no doubt. Once bought, it may stay in the bedroom and out of use for longer than I care to admit. But I'll have it for when I need it, and my safety is more important than a little embarrassment about a couple tennis balls. And, as every middle aged woman in the world knows, in a pinch I can keep it next to the bed and let it help me get to the bathroom faster-a serious conundrum for us women, let me tell you.

As to other issues, I've recently put a night light in the master bath. That's as much about not having those bright circles on your eyelids after turning the light on to look for something at night as it is about falling down, truth be told. I am in the process of getting estimates on both putting in a railing (now) and a ramp (later?) as part of my spring budget and to do list. Because I prefer to have things handy rather than pulling them out, my heavy things like mixers are already out and require no lifting.

And finally, there is one issue that my checklist did not address. Pets and retirement health. Especially as it pertains to falls, and especially small dogs. I am not liable to fall and get twisted up in my coon hound. On a bad day, send the crazy powder puff across the street in my direction and I'm liable to end up in the middle of the road. I remember well when my father-in-law tripped over his bulldog puppy and fortunately landed on that padded part of his body. This does not mean that I would ever give up my canine family, on the contrary. I also have something on safety of women living alone in the works and almost every expert recommends a dog-small enough that you can control, but large enough to be a presence. But leashes and training and size and temperament all affect our safety as well.

Only you can decide how to make your home safer (and healthier). Hopefully my little nudge towards the earth this evening is something that won't happen again. But if it does, I'll be more ready. Maybe. I hope.

17 comments:

  1. I have never fallen in the bathroom or bedroom. The worst fall was a few weeks ago when a wisteria vine hidden in the grass as it crept across the yard caught me. I now have to have full braces because I landed on my face! There are six steps to my side door. Only two are the same height! Two are monster steps--here when I bought the place and not easily fixed. However, the saving grace is a very sturdy iron railing so pulling myself up the steps is possible. Standing is excruciating for me, too. But, even though walking hurts my knees and backs, for a bit it is much preferable to just standing. I will never have an animal in the house.

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    1. ouch, that would hurt. I believe my ramp is coming in the nex year. My dogs are mu family and my proection so I keep them near at all times.

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  2. I hope you weren't badly injured! Falls are a constant danger to many of us.

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    1. I'll live to share the embarassment, but I will be much more careful in the future as this was a first for me.

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  3. So sorry you fell. Hope you are okay. I have a knee that just dumps me periodically, no pain, no warning so I use a telescoping walking stick on my treks.

    I fell in my bathroom some years back and now have "acquired scoliosis" because of it. I too can walk for 30 minutes at a time but cannot stand more than 10 minutes. I hadn't thought of a walker. Have to think about that.

    Thanks for the nightlight suggestion. I have one sitting in a drawer with an off/on switch. Sitting here thinking why haven't I used it?

    I sold my house and bought a small condo from a 90 year old woman who had remodeled the inside with a lovely step in shower with grab bars and a seat. She also converted both the bathroom and kitchen cupboards with those wonderful shelves that slide out.

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    1. I am fourtunate that I did not have bathroom issues, but I do have a "tall" poty and I am careful getting in and out of my bath tub shower comgo.

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  4. OK, you have not asked for advice, but my NURSE self is just kicking in.WHY do you think you may not be "ready" for an "alert" button to wear around your neck?? I am thinking if your son was not home, maybe you would have laid in those bushes a long time before someone would find you!!! I love those alert buttons! You press the button and someone sends help. I have a friend who just fell at home in her kitchen. She had a stroke. Fell,broke her hip too. Her daughter found her on the kitchen floor the next morning..had called at 5 PM the night before.. Mom was ok.. somewhere between 5 PM one evening and 5 PM the next,Our friend either fell and had a stroke, or, had the stoke and fell..who knows?? If she were conscious enough to just press a button she may have had a chance at early treatment.. I have a 60 year old friend who lives in a shared living arrangement/house with another friend, she wears a spiffy looking alert necklace with a crystal on it! Anyway-- it's a thought. All your ideas about checking our homes over and getting safer, are really right on. Great post.

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    1. Love your nurse self. I will certainly give it consideration for the future. Truthfully, I dont live alone, if I did I would have one already, and my phone was on my body, as it always is (in a pocket not in a purse). I don't have a moral opposition, for sure.I do have one in my car.I will look into this further.

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    2. I forgot about the phone option..certainly a good thing! Still,I may even get one of those alerts myself, as we are taking back a small cabin up north for occasional use, and sometimes my husband likes to go up by himself for a few days.I'd feel safer with an alert, maybe... in same boat as every other age-ing Baby Boomer..decisionsdecisions....

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    3. My mom carries a phone full time. The one time she fell she was putting the garbage out on the curb in her nightgown. She laid on the garage floor for about six hours. She was lucky that one of the professionals of her neighborhood came home for lunch (and she had not yet put down the garage door). She has worn an alert button ever since.
      We are considering getting one for our house for the person who is home alone to wear when the other is gone for a longer period of time. Your post is a good reminder to do just that!

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  5. Aghhhh....I understand how you feel. How can we be that old that we need to worry about falls!!! And....yet.....I have tripped a few times in the last few years. I love my night lights in the bathroom and kitchen....automatic LED lights that come on automatically if it is dark and off when it is light. I also recently bought a second hand walker....hid it in my closet....for when my back pulls out badly and I need support to get around the house. A lot more balanced support than a walking stick and now that I am living by myself it will help me to be independent of help.

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    1. Looking for that walker today! I am also considering that maybe I should not be walking on the walking path and do so on the track and the rec center or in the water.

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  7. Glad you weren't seriously hurt. If we keep our cellphones on us, we don't need an alert button, do we? That's why I encourage everyone to keep their phone with them at all times. And one more thing: IMHO everyone, no matter what their age, should have a grab bar in the shower. You don't have to be old to fall.

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  8. Oh my goodness I am so sorry about your fall, but so glad it wasn't more serious. You've given me good insight about what I need to start thinking about!

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  9. So sorry that you fell, but happy that it wasn't too bad. I don't know what we will do when we start having problems getting around our home. We have loads of small step ups, and in order to do laundry I have to go downstairs. We could end up having to move to a more easily navigable home.

    God bless.

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  10. That is so good you are having a railing put in next to the steps where you fell. You remind me to look at our house for safety issues. My son put in several battery operated lights in the hall and bathroom that turn on when they sense motion. They stick on the wall.

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