Friday, April 3, 2020

911 & The Single Life: Fall Prevention

And now…I’ve decided to continue my series, as planned. As you all know, there is an over-abundance of information and resources on the subject of COVID-19.  but the best bet is to go to the Center for Disease Control’s site, which is always being updated with the latest:

Here in Wyoming, we’re all hoping that Winter will be over soon, and that Spring will be “springing”. As usual, we get those freak storms here and there (like we just had), but for the most part, I think that from now on, we’ll be seeing more sun that snow. At least I hope so, because I’ve had a severe case of cabin fever for the past few months. Not quite to the point of “Heeeere’s Carol!!” but…close. Very close!

Looking back on this past Winter, I’ve had a few “snow-and ice combination” near-flips and misses in the driveway, in parking lots, at the station, at the mailbox. Fortunately, I’ve been able to grab something and catch myself. Honestly speaking, there were a few times where  I probably looked like a cartoon character…arms flailing, legs whirring out of control as the fall was possibly (and probably) anticipated and witnessed by several web cams and "Facebook Live" hounds wielding their smartphones.

But falling is no laughing matter. Once I had my “Humpty-Dumpty” moment in the hallway, believe me, I was not laughing. If anything, my awareness for Fall Prevention only increased.

Many would be surprised at the “Fall Call” volume that our EMTs and Paramedics respond to, year-round…in addition to the COVID-19 calls. And believe me when I say that age is not the problem! The causes of falls - ranging from impulsiveness, to intoxication, to falling off a ladder while Spring cleaning - to just being plain stupid and thinking you're invincible...stopping and focusing on what you’re doing is perhaps the most important first step before the "first step" in Fall Prevention.

The Most Common Causes of Falls

According to our Paramedics/EMTs, the most common causes of falls are: 1) Intoxication, 2) Area rugs, and (believe it or not), 2) Pets. In my own case, my big toe caught on the hem of my baggy sweatpants...but to be completely honest, it was my own fault of rushing around that started the whole chain reaction. Nevertheless...

Let's look at the top reasons for Falls:

My admitted weakness - Spinetta Wines
Especially their Black Muscat
IntoxicationEven a little alcohol can impair your balance and reflexes. A lot of alcohol? Well, that goes without saying. It’s a slippery slope towards bad judgment, and ultimately, unconsciousness…because once you’re at that point, you won’t even know if you hit your head on the corner of a table, or how you found yourself at the bottom of the stairs. That is, if you even wake up from such a fall.
   Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a glass of [California] wine, or a nice cold beer in order to unwind after a long day at work…but drinking alone can be an unhealthy risk. So, if you do drink alone…do it in moderation and set boundaries for yourself. And, of course, never drink and drive. Better to just go straight to bed-or-couch and sleep it off, than “decide” in an impaired state to do something inarguably stupid.

Area rugs. Even “anti-slip” backing may not always solve the problem on slick wood floors (be careful about how much you clean/wax those floors, by the way). Rugs on carpeted floors need to be secured down, somehow. If you do slip and fall on such flooring, you might want to think about how our EMTs might be “slip-sliding away” as well, just to get to order to help you.
   Also, be wary of the edges and corners of the rugs you have in your home. Even finish-edged rugs on a carpet base can cause problems; over time, those edges can bend up, or get frayed. So be careful how you enter the rooms that have such a situation or layout.
   You know your home the best. Always think safety first when planning your interior decorating!

My Grand-Puppy, the N. Arapaho Pow Wow, Sept 2018
PetsWe love our fur babies, but let’s face it…they can sometimes be a bit, well...unpredictable. There’s really nothing you can do to prevent your pooch from running up and jumping on you. OMG, they’re SO happy to see you! But a medium to large-sized dog could push you right over, or at the very least cause you to lose your balance. Small dogs and cats can suddenly appear right in front of you, so be aware of where your pets aresurvey the area or rooms before you proceed. Train them to “sit” or “stay” on command.
   Okay, so...cats are a different story; they pretty much go wherever they please…however they please! 

Other causes of falls…

Impulsiveness: “Slow down, you move too fast…” Made you sing it! Thank you, Simon & Garfunkel. Seriously, though…impulsiveness was one of the factors that led to my own fall. I looked at the time, started rushing around, not being mindful of my actions and surroundings. Even though my sweat pants were too large, I may not have fallen if I had walked, instead of bolted down the hallway.
   Get up slowlyWalk, don’t run. Life is not a sprint (even if your morning-caffeinated drink would tell you otherwise). I would rather be late to work and still be in one piece…than not make it in at all and have to explain the story to my boss (even though she probably wouldn't be surprised). The fortunate thing is that my boss and the crews know my work schedule and when to expect me. So, if I didn't show up without any word or explanation, they’d probably know something was wrong.
   Watch where you’re going in public places. Look up at bubble mirrors in order to help you see what’s coming around the corner. They’re there for a reason.
   Feelin' groovy...

Slippery SurfacesThis is becoming just a tiny bit irrelevant now, since Wyoming is (finally) experiencing some of the first thaws of Spring. But the nights can still get down to very cold temps, so still be cautious of potentially icy walkways and sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Even the slightest slips can cause injury as you try to compensate to maintain your balance.
   Clear all sidewalks and driveways! Falls on your tailbone, bracing a fall with your hands…all can be prevented if you just move slowly on a clear, dry path. Wear shoes or boots with good sole traction.
   Know that any wet floor surface can put you at risk for a slip-and-fall, so use and READ “Wet Floor” signs!

Carol's basement stairs.
Yeah, you don't wanna go down there.
StairwaysI have a particularly steep stairway that leads down into a dark basement where I store the bodies (just kidding!)…so I’m always sure to turn on the light, grab onto the handrails and use them all the way down. Same with outdoor porch and deck stairs, especially at night.

Ladders. Spring is teasing us here in Wyoming, but you know…there are always those "over-achievers" who want to clear out those rain gutters and inspect what damage has been done to the roof during the harsh Winter. I don’t care if you fancy yourself as Spider Man with “Spidey-senses”…you’re not going to impress our EMTs when they have to be called out because you decided to climb an old rickety ladder…alone. So, yeah...don't do it alone. Be smart; get a friend to help steady that ladder, and can celebrate your accomplishment(s) over a nice, cold one. Later. See "Intoxication" above...don't make our Paramedics have to save your ass for two reasons.

Flip-Flops. I know, they’re popular Summer wear, and I do love ‘em, but…they can also leave you wide open to a myriad of foot injuries. Never run in flip-flops. If you can’t walk in them properly (and slowly) consider closed-toed or tight-fitted sandals.  Be sure-footed! Wear correctly-sized shoes and slippers (I admit, an ironic name for footwear, LOL)

A History of Falls. Our EMTs/Paramedics get many, many "fall calls". Never would they ever minimize the urgency or importance of such calls, but...when there are other calls that are of priority...especially now,  during this COVID-19 would help them greatly if they knew the extent of pain and injury due to the fall. In my case, I have no history of falling, but even if I did have such a history, I'd probably drag and drive myself into my car and make the less-than-one-mile distance to the Riverton ER to get treated. But...that's me...a single, stubborn woman. For many, that is not the case.
   If you have a history of falling, it's time to consult your doctor as to what to do. There is no shame in this, and you should never take your own health lightly. You know yourself better than anyone, so take control and have medical professionals on your side.

Keep your phone with you, make sure it’s always charged. Take your phone with you, even into the bathroom. Keep landline phones in their cradles, charged, visible and unobstructed.

🚑 When to call 911…
If you are in extreme pain.
If you are bleeding (more than a little scrape).
If you fell because of an onset of dizziness, light-headedness, blurred vision or vertigo.
If your over 55 and/or taking blood thinners.

CDC: Preventing Falls
Life Enriching Resources
Tai Chi Foundation

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