Kristina Atwood: Be aware, prevent a fall

Did you know that in addition to September being the start of the fall season, it is also Fall Prevention Awareness month?

Falls can happen to anyone, and this is what happened to me. The worst fall I ever had occurred when I was a sophomore in college. I was headed home for spring break and I decided to take all my winter things home with me.

I had a duffle bag loaded with my belongings on one shoulder, it was extremely heavy; so I was also holding onto the handle. I also had another bag in my other hand when I started down the stairs from the second floor of my dorm building.

The strap of my duffle bag got caught around the stair rail, which jerked me back and threw me off balance. The strap then snapped, and already off balance, I lost my footing on the step and I fell head first down the flight of stairs and ended up at the bottom of the landing on my back. Fortunately, apart being bruised from my shoulders to my knees I was fine, but as I lay there at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by all the people who had seen me fall, asking me if I was okay, all I wanted to do was get up and get away — and that was what I did.

Falls can be scary and embarrassing, but it seems the older we get the worse a fall can be with the addition of increasing potential for serious injury. There are things we can do, however, to prevent a fall from occurring.

These can include such things as removing slip hazards from the home, such as rugs without rubber backing and making sure there are clear pathways to all rooms in the home. If needed, use adaptive equipment, such as a cane or walker, for extra support.

Joining an exercise class or a group that may be offered at a local senior center or YMCA, which can help improve mobility. There are also classes, demonstrations, and pamphlets that show how to fall if a fall cannot be avoided, along with the correct way to get up after a fall.

Some falls may also be due to a health issue or a potential side effect from medication; so speaking with a doctor if a fall occurs, whether or not there is an injury, may be a good idea. And because falls do happen, carrying a phone or medical alert to be able to get assistance is a good idea.

When I fell, I did everything you aren’t supposed to do – I was carrying things in both hands so I couldn’t hold onto the stair rail, what I was carrying was extremely heavy because I didn’t want to make multiple trips up and down the stairs, and that put me off balance even before I attempted to go down the stairs, and I also wasn’t wearing good shoes.

After I fell, I didn’t wait for assistance, I didn’t take time to see if I was injured. Could I have prevented my fall? After listening and participating in the various classes and presentations offered throughout the years at the senior center, I know that I could have.

Falls happen, but knowing the ways we can lessen the risk and learning what to do in the event of a fall can hopefully lessen the fear and prevent injury.

Kristina Atwood is the SeniorAge Center Lead and HCBS Assessor at the Cassville Senior Center.

She may be reached at 417-847-4510 or kristina.