Monday, September 17, 2007

After the Fall

My dad fell Saturday. We received the call about 11:15 that morning, picked him up at his independent living facility and took him to an emergency room, where we spent the next four or five hours. My dad, who walks with a "walker," could not get up or stand unassisted after he fell, and we feared the worst-- which in his case would have been a broken hip. But x-rays were negative and, though a painful gash on the back of his head required five staples, we were relieved. He is with us until we can make some confusing but necessary decisions.

Falls are awful. My husband has been telling me for years that I go down harder than anyone he's seen. "You've never learned to fall," he concludes, then tries to tell me what to do when I feel myself falling. I know, I answer, I've read the instructions.

Honestly, I never thought much about falling until I began to work with the elderly. After several of my special people died as the result of them, I began to fear falls. Nursing homes are hazardous places. I've read studies that say 50 to 75 percent of nursing home residents over 65 years old fall at least once every year; "only" one in three people who live at home fall once a year. As a staff member, I fell several times each year, so I suspect the percentages are actually higher.

I've tried to think of another word or phrase to describe what happens to a person when he falls, other than "shaken up." He didn't break any bones, we say with relief, he's just a little shaken up. But people are shaken deeper than their fragile bones, down into the psyche.

I can't believe this happened to me.

I'm afraid to go anywhere again.

My dad is using his walker now and testing out his world after the fall. Yesterday he slept a lot. As he lay on the couch, eyes closed and breathing steadily, my son gazed at him and murmured, "Doesn't he look sweet?"

Yes, too sweet, too good to fall.

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