Do we wait too long to educate people about the danger of falls and how to go about preventing them?
I ask myself this question over and over as I consider past aging parent falls and anticipate what might happen in the future. I’ve perused a wide range of fall prevention resources, ticked off countless fall prevention checklists, been a cheerleader about balance classes and seminars, and even read a recent study about walkers and canes, Walking Aids Associated With Falls, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At our house we’ve taken this Public Health crisis seriously, making changes — hand rails, non-slip surfaces, and grab bars — so our parents are comfortable and secure. But guess what? We are using them a lot, too. The fact that we casually, even nonchalantly use handrails, grab bars, and the like, makes me wonder whether it may be way too late to try to educate and inform 70 and 80 year olds effectively about falls. I’m thinking that the real fall prevention needs to be addressed with people who are now approaching age 65, that is in this case baby boomers. I am in this age group and am amazed at how, as we gradually modify our house, we are also modifying our own behavior.
So it seems like a good time — while we are already helping to educate our aging parents and feverishly trying to prevent their falls — to address for ourselves the importance of basic behavior modifications including tweaks in the house, good (and stylish) shoes, regular exercise, and perhaps even the idea that a cane or two — make that a walking stick or two — should be around the house. We can use them — in front of our parents — when walks include a lot of hills or forest paths. There are some pretty good sites for canes and walking sticks on the web.
Perhaps senior parents are just plain tired of learning so many new things, or maybe they are displaying a bit of unconscious, “tip-of-the-hat-to-grandchildren,” teenage bravado, saying to themselves, “I’m in good shape so I will not fall…” It could also be that at their age it’s just really hard to modify behavior, or that they are sick and tired of making so many changes to their homes and to themselves. It’s no secret that the older one grows, the harder changes become. And after a fall occurs, and the confidence is so low — is not the most opportune time for instruction on how to use a cane or walker because more injuries can occur.
If lots of us already knew how to use walking sticks and canes and thought of them as exercise tools rather than as punishments for falling, would more falls be prevented? I wonder.
So while continuing to educate aging parents about falls, let’s work on ourselves as well.