I took a falls prevention class last May and June, and am still practicing the exercises I learned. I was thinking of starting up this Friday feature again. But first, some background:
When Is A Fall Not A Fall?
Last week, I blogged about how I had signed up for a falling prevention course because - well, I've fallen several times in the past four years. I am only 62 years old and I know what this can mean down the road.
My spouse had a relative who died from complications of a fall. My brother in law's mother in law has been hospitalized or in rehab since March after a fall in her bathtub resulted in a head injury. Even my spouse's aunt, who is 103, has not escaped falling. A fall when she was 102 (it wasn't her first fall, either) led to a partial hip replacement. She will never be independent again, although (for now) she still lives at home.
Falling, for a senior, can be a death sentence at worst. At best, it can result in broken bones, a trip to the Emergency Room, and/or the loss of independence. So, if you are reading this post, and haven't fallen, you may still have elderly relatives to think about. Or, your taxes may be paying the medical bills of those who have fallen. This is a problem that impacts all of us.
So, that's how I found myself sitting last Wednesday in a circle with six other women, and one man, and two facilitators. The facilitators, both women, were retired RN's. And, both had fallen. We were all in good company.
We went around the circle, introducing ourselves, and telling our falling stories. So many of them seemed to involve walking dogs and uneven ground or gopher holes but there were some pretty nasty in-home falls, too.
Then the facilitators asked how many in the group had had joint replacements. Almost everyone had had at least one, if not more. In other words, I was sitting in a group of Bionic Seniors.
The program I am taking is evidence based and was developed in Australia.
Next, two physical therapists joined the class to teach us exercises we would do to build up our balance and strength, to prevent future falls. Four exercises for balance, to be done daily. Four exercises for strength, to be done three times a week.
I didn't feel out of place at all. Certainly no one was giving me funny looks or wondering why a young senior was sitting in the class.
I talked to one of the RN's after class and she told me a person at risk of falling, no matter what their age, could take the class.
The youngest person to take this class locally was in her mid 40's. The oldest was 103 - she is 106 now. So, it is never too early (if you have the need), or too late. As we were told, age is an attitude. There are people in their 90's who think more youthfully than people in their 60's. I want to be one of those people.
As for the question "when is a fall not a fall?" One of the RN's explained that when someone calls to register, she always asks, "have you fallen?" Many times, her question is met with several moments of silence, as the person on the other end of thephone thinks about it. Was their fall a fall?
Too many people think, the RN explained, a fall doesn't "count" if it doesn't result in a trip to the ER or a broken bone. But, the RN went on, "it's like being a little bit pregnant. You did or you didn't. You either fell or you didn't."