As much as the Stepping On program falls prevention program I participated in during 2015 taught me, there is something that they never touched on. Not directly, anyway. My guess is, it isn't part of the official curriculum they must follow. I think falling education has to face something head-on.
That issue is fear.
Fear of falling.
At one of the first classes I took, the two instructors asked us "How many of
you don't go out during the winter unless you absolutely have to?" More
than half raised their hands. In upstate New York, winters are cold
and harsh, with lots of ice and snow. We can get over 100 inches of
snow (254 cm) in a year. If you don't go out, you are isolated.
But if you have to go out, there are icy sidewalks to deal with. We've all fallen on them.
I'm only in my mid 60's, and I am increasingly afraid of winter. Now that my spouse has retired, I have someone to take me to work if the weather is bad. But how many people live alone, or with spouses or partners who suffer physical or health issues?
Stepping On teaches strategies, with videos and discussions, of how to deal with various situations that result in balance challenges, and that is all good.
I refuse to accept that becoming fearful is a normal part of aging. But falling seems to be all around me. A co worker's father fell and hit his head last year. His injury may impact the rest of his life.
My spouse fell in October of 2017 and broke his nose, among other injuries. He needed months of physical therapy. He was lucky.
My mother in law, who passed away last November, fell a number of times, starting in her 60's. Eventually, the cumulative injuries led to her loss of independence.
I think we all have stories - ourselves, loved ones, friends.
It shouldn't have to be like this, in your final years.
Experts tell us that fear of falling actually leads to an increased risk
of falling. It doesn't sound right, but it does make sense.
Now, at times, I could wish for a third leg. Seniors do have something like that available to them - it's called a cane. But too many seniors shy away (we learned this in the falling classes) from using a cane, or even a walker, out of shame, or fear of being stared at. Fear of knowing they are growing old factors into it, too. (And we were also taught that many seniors use a cane that isn't the right length. How many of them are fitted for a cane? I wonder.)
So how do you deal with the fear?
It's great that our part of upstate New York has programs to help
seniors with balance. Falling has become a major concentration of the
medical community here, as we have a high population of seniors in our
area. When I go to the doctor now, I am asked if I had fallen any since my last exam. That question was never part of the normal pre-exam workup.
But, I feel, it won't do much good without touching on the psychological
issues. What good is teaching balance if people have already developed
the fear? How about a class on dealing with that fear and learning to
find ways to make it better?
Is there something like that in your community? I wonder if fear education works.
Day three of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost