Coping With Life After A Fall

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Firefighters hear the call several times a week. Senior citizens dial 911 and cry, "I've fallen and I can't get up."

Through July of this year, the Payson Fire Department responded to 102 falls. In 2005, there were 179 falls and another 203 in 2004.

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David Boomer fell and broke his arm while trying to move around a chair.

A few years ago, it was Laverne Lipsey calling after she fell and broke her hip in her apartment at the Pine View Manor Apartments.

Lipsey, who is 80 years old, said she was fortunate because when she fell she was close to a phone where she could call for help.

Mike Barland, director of rehabilitation services for the Payson Regional Medical Center, said he knew an elderly man who fell at his residence and lay injured on the floor for two to three days before being discovered. He said the man, when found, was suffering from dehydration and broken skin.

"At that point a lot of things can happen," he said. He added that it is up to the senior how much he or she is going to let the fall and injury affect them.

Lipsey, even by walking down the sidewalk, has fallen before, but escaped injury.

She said her recent fall, when she was rushed to the emergency room, was the result of bad luck and too much stuff lying around in her apartment.

Barland suggest that seniors get rid of all their throw rugs, as they are easy to trip over.

Peggy Newman, manager of the Pine View Manor Apartments, said seniors are more susceptible to falling because their balance is not as good as it was when they were younger.

"People fall when you least expect it," she said. "For them, it can be the most painful thing in their life."

Lipsey said that is exactly how she felt.

"I couldn't even get up," Lipsey said. The intense pain seemed to take over her entire body.

Lipsey had a plate installed in her hip and still gets around with a walker, which she was using before falling.

Another resident from Pine View, David Boomer, fell and broke an arm when he tried to maneuver around a chair in his apartment.

Boomer, 96, was still in a cast as of Wednesday and is looking forward having it taken off. He has been in the cast for six weeks.

Boomer said he was walking around a chair in his apartment when he hit the corner of the chair, causing him to fall.

He said he hit his head and cracked a bone in his arm.

"I got up, and this arm was puffed up," he said.

"It seemed like a simple deal in coming around the chair."

Barland said he sees seniors who have fallen all the time. He said that many seniors are unstable and no longer can walk long distances or get up from chairs with no difficulty.

The average person can fall and not suffer a serious injury due to having enough muscle mass to overcome any serious issue, but seniors have less muscle mass and have more brittle bones.

Barland said the PRMC sees a lot of seniors who have fallen and broken their hips, which for a senior is one of the most serious injuries. When breaking a hip, he said, that means a person will not be able to put weight on it for at least six weeks, not counting the rehabilitation portion that will need to be done.

Other common injuries are wrist fractures and rotator cuff problems because when tripping. Most people attempt to catch themselves with a hand, Barland said.

There are some elderly residents after falling who tend to move less and eliminate social ties with friends and family.

Barland said seniors can recover from a fall injury, but their will and a positive attitude are necessary.

Not all falls can be avoided, he said, but there are ways to decrease the likelihood of falling or suffering an injury as a result.

Walking or any other weight-bearing exercise is the ideal thing seniors should be doing when able.

"Your bones will be stronger, and you will maintain confidence in walking," the physical therapist said.

"The key is keep moving."

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