By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
What amazes me about watching news reporting is that they always begin with a personal story, state the problem and ends with how that problem affects that person. I love that format. Hence, imitation is the best type of flattering; I will use the general tips from the Mayo Clinic that I shared last week, and I will give you some real-life experiences and observations. I hope the stories would help you make your own preparation lists – things to do or not to do.
Medication: this is an important topic. In general, medication side effects are listed based on their trials and experiments. But be mindful that each body is different. Learn from your own observation and make sure that the side effects are noted. Some people feel light-headed with certain medication. For me, when I have a viral infection in the winter season (which is rare), I don’t cough or sneeze with respiratory symptoms, I have gastrointestinal issues like abdominal pain and vertigo. During one of those experiences, I would lie down for hours to control the vertigo with my unsteady feet.
Recently I heard of a colleague’s story: her 80-year old mom who is relatively healthy and very active fell on the floor and could not get up. She lives in a plush town house for seniors. She was found falling to the floor from her families who were calling her as that day was her birthday. Assessing the root causes of why she was on the fall, she could not recall the details. But she remembered giving herself an insulin shot thinking it was breakfast time. Little did she know it was not breakfast time; she gave herself an insulin too early. By the time the paramedics came, her glucose was in the 40’s! This is a good example that you can fall from medication issues.
Keeping moving: this is a good suggestion. Walking is good. But don’t walk before the sun comes out or after dark. I have seen neighbors do that. Frankly there is no benefit of getting vitamin D from the sun. In fact, they are risking their lives. One of my biggest fears when I drive after dark is to knock them down. I am also concerned about a gentleman in my neighborhood; he always walks with his dog before 6 a.m. Luckily, he always walks against traffic and that his dog is white in color. If I am not at my highest alert, I could have missed him.
Wear sensible shoes: This is especially true for traveling. Louis and I were traveling in Central Europe. During our first group meeting, one team member twisted her ankle, fell and fractured her hip. She could not even start her dream vacation. Lessons learned: make sure you have shoes that you trust for walking long distance. Durability is the key word.
Remove home hazards: The listed hazardous items from Mayo Clinic were very thorough. Louis had an experience of a near missed experience; the stairs to the second floor is carpeted. The carpet is twenty years old. With age, it becomes slippery. So do watch out for slippery carpets and hang on to the side rails.
Light up your living space: installing automatic light switches seems like an excellent idea.
Use assistive devices: I have seen time after time that seniors are slow to warm up to the idea of a walker. Case in point, this gentleman was a well-known physician. When he fractured his hip, his doctor prescribed a walker for him. He would struggle to get up from the sofa and slide down to the next seating area. The walker was parked right next to him. The thought of being in a sick role must be a scary feeling. The refusal of using a walker was a declaration of independence. But sometimes this kind of declaration would be at the cost of a fall. So, accept your limitation and swallow your pride. It is time to put safety first in your life.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: do another evaluation of your home environment to prevent fall hazards.
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