Reduce Fear of Falling - How To Get Up from a Fall the Correct Way
Many of us have seen, and many of us have laughed at, the television ad by the medical call alert company where a woman falls in the home: "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" We know it's not funny but when a comedian pokes fun at this unfortunate situation, we laugh.
When a young person falls, especially a talented skater like Sharon Cohen (above), we don't feel as much concern for her physical safety as we would for an older person. We know she can, and will, get back up and skate beautifully again. But, when a senior falls, especially an older senior, we feel much more concern.
In a 2008 study: Inability to get up after falling, subsequent time on floor, and summoning help: prospective cohort study in people over 90 - BMJ 2008;337:a2227, authored by Jane Fleming, research nurse/study coordinator, Carol Brayne, professor of public health medicine, it was found that even when an elderly person is wearing an emergency call device they may not use it, even when lying on the floor for over an hour. The authors concluded that many seniors need training, specific training, on what to do if they fall and can't get up.
The purpose of this article is to provide some advice to care-givers, friends and family on how to help seniors know what to do if they fall in the home or on the street.
What should I do if I fall?
The first thing to do if you fall is to stay exactly where you are and catch your breath. Do not attempt to get up quickly or right away. Think about what has happened and try to determine if you are injured. You do not need to be embarrassed or frightened if you fall.
Take your time, even if you believe you are alright.
If you think you can get up safely without help, you should follow these steps
- If you are flat on the ground or floor, lie on your side. Bend the leg that is on top and roll over to a kneeling position. You should be on your knees and hands or knees and elbows. Take your time to let your blood pressure adjust - make sure you are not dizzy.
- While still on your knees, crawl towards a chair or other sturdy object that won’t tip over.
- While still on your knees place both hands or both elbows on the chair in the middle of seat.
- Move your stronger leg forward while holding on to the chair or object and try to stand up. Turn around, carefully, and sit on the chair or object.
- If you are not strong enough to stand up from this position, don’t worry. See if you can turn yourself around, carefully, and sit on the floor or ground with your back to the chair or object.
- Rest in your sitting position and stay calm. Do not panic. Call for help, if you can, and wait for help to arrive.
NOTE: When you are at home it is a good idea to wear an emergency alert necklace and to place a blanket or robe on your main chair or bed to wrap around you if you fall. When you are outside it is a good idea to carry a cell phone to use to call for help and to wear or carry a light coat or sweater to wrap around you if you fall.
If you're hurt or can't get up
After you have caught your breath, if you determine that you may be injured try to remain as still as possible. If you move too quickly you may cause more injury so be careful if you feel any discomfort. What you want to do now is to get help.
- If you wear an emergency alert necklace, press the button to call for help, then relax as much as you can.
- If you carry a cell phone while outside, use it to call for help. Call 9-1-1 or call a nearby friend to come and help you.
- If you are at home when you fall and don’t wear an emergency alert necklace, slide or crawl towards your telephone and call 9-1-1 or a friend.
- If you are at home but cannot reach your telephone, slide or crawl towards your apartment door and call for help. If you are in your own house or you cannot slide or crawl, make as much noise as you can to be heard. Don't panic.
- If you are able, cover yourself with a blanket or a sweater to stay warm while you are waiting for help.
- Try to carefully move your legs and arms to ease circulation and prevent stiffness.
- Above all, try to stay calm.
NOTE: If you live in an apartment (especially one for seniors) find a "buddy" and arrange with them to check on you (and you on them if they require it) on a regular, usually daily, basis.
- Make a green door nob card; a card you can hang on your outside door to indicate that you are OK.
- Place the green card on your door nob at night to indicate that you are going to bed and all is well.
- In the morning, say 11:00 am, remove the green card from your door nob to indicate you are up and all is well.
- It is a good idea to either allow your "buddy" to have a key to your apartment or make arrangements with the landlord to enter if your green card is still on the door.
If you witness a fall
If you see someone fall while outside or in the home, go to their aide but do not rush them. It is important that you resist the urge to get them up immediately.
If the person cannot get up:
- Tell them your name and say you would like to help them.
- Call for help and administer first aid if you are able to do so.
- Tell them to stay exactly where they are while you check to see if they have any injury.
- If the person can move (or is OK to move), help them find as comfortable a position as possible and cover them with a blanket or a coat or sweater to keep them as warm as possible while waiting for help.
If the person can get up:
- If you can, bring a sturdy chair close by the person.
- Help the person turn on their side and bend their top leg; help them turn over into a kneeling position.
- Have the person place their hands or elbows in the middle of the chair.
- Have the person move their stronger leg forward and, by pushing them up with your hands on their hips, help them rise to a standing or crouching position in front of the chair. (Remember to lift with your legs – not your back.)
- Guide them to turn and sit in the chair.
- Help keep the person warm and calm.
Should I tell my doctor if I fall?
If you fall, or almost fall, you should discuss this with your doctor. A fall or near fall may be the result of dizziness, poor vision, muscle weakness, medications or need for a medical mobility service either in your home or outside your home.
See: Fear of Falling - A Senior's Worst Nightmare for further information on what can cause a fall and how to help prevent falls.
Make a note of where you fell, what time of day it was, if you tripped over something, if you felt dizzy all of a sudden, if you turned your ankle, and whether you were inside or outside your home. Your doctor will help you determine if a change in medicine or dosage is appropriate, whether you need a new glasses prescription, or better fitting shoes.
Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist to help with gait training or fitting you with a cane or walker or to an occupational therapist to help you remove fall risks in your home.
See: Guide-to-Removing-Dangerous-Fall-Risks-in-Senior-Homes for more information on how to prevent fall risks in your home.
Carry a cell phone and know how to use it in an emergency
Carrying a cell phone with you as you move about your home or while walking to the bank or store, can make it easier to call someone if you need assistance.
© 2012 Marilyn Alexander