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Fear of falling



Some of you know that about four weeks ago I had a fall. I fell about five feet onto cement pavers, gashing my head, a wound requiring six stitches. Luckily it was on the opposite side on my head  to where I had the aneurysm clipped last July. In falling I also hit my right shin and my left shoulder both of which were giving me a lot of pain when I arrived in the hospital. So I had x-rays on shin and shoulder,  a CT of my brain to make sure I had not had a bleed and after all that was clear, the stitches. I was pretty weary by then, as this was the beginning of the COVID19 scare I didn't have a bed to lie down on,  just sat in a chair much like the ones I have in my lounge room. The nurses were kind but brisk, obviously I was not ill or in need of help with just a minor wound to be stitched.


I didn't actually fall,  I slipped. I was doing something really stupid, cleaning out the rubbish from under my orange tree on my hands and knees. I stood up and turned around but I had a plastic tub in my arms when I turned to go back to the path and suddenly my right foot went over the bank, I slid over the retaining wall and the rest of my body naturally followed. The fall resulted in me coming to with half of my body under the BBQ, a really difficult place to extract myself from. But apart from the head injury I was remarkably lucky to sustain as few injuries as I did. Only the large amount of blood pooling under my shoulder alerted me to the fact that I needed to make a move, go into the house and find something to staunch the blood flow.


I was hysterical for a minute or two, then I realised I had no help close by and when I'd  managed to get inside, I phoned a friend who told me to call an ambulance, and so I finished up in hospital.  Five hours later I had to ring my daughter Shirley to come and get me as she needed to stay with me overnight in case I had delayed concussion. That is the downside of being alone, you can hardly ask a neighbor to come and stay the night can you? And so it had to be Shirley. It is a situation where the fact that I live independently is a minus rather than a plus. I am like so many other older folk  I want to stay in my own home for as long as I can but I know that is not going to be forever.  Perhaps that can happen for some time yet, but in a different way. If I can't stay safe and rely on continuing to do my own housework etc I am going to have to have some assistance to go on living here.


I have had the stitches out now and thought I had dodged a bullet until today. Today I went  right up the back of my yard to clear out leaves, small branches etc that had accumulated due to some wind storms. It is a job I do once or twice a year. I took a bag with me this time in place of the plastic tub. On the way down to the bin I felt myself starting to slip. This time I was close to the fence so I reached out and managed to stand upright again. I was still shaken. Two falls so close to one another would have called my safety into question. And I don't want that to happen. I know my kids love me to be independent, the old "Mum can cope" thing, but I am aware of how much my body has been through in the past three years.


I know part of the problem is the cut muscle behind my left knee that happened during the  Melanoma  operation which has made me feel less stable. I had thought I was over that but the fact is that like stroke damage once the damage was done all I could do is learn to live with it. I now need to recognise the dangers in some of the things I USED to do and either compromise on what I need to do and get someone in to do it or restrict the area I need help with. Knowing that is the choice doesn't seem to help but I DO know in my mind that this is what I have to do. Don't you just hate that? The uncompromising nature of life? Being isolated at home during this Corona virus scare has given me too much time to think, it has made me look at my life in a different way. I can  usually keep myself busy and ignore what is happening, keep thinking  that I am coping well with life  but in the end I have had to realise it is really about the consequences of ageing. It is a bitter pill to swallow.


And so I now have a fear of falling. Sometimes our fears keep us safe, hopefully that is what will happen in this case. I will look at what needs to be done and how I can do it safely. I will take my mobile phone with me to call for help whether I need it or not. I will wear gloves while gardening to avoid being bitten by ants and spiders. Really I am not that fussy fussy kind of person. I am impulsive, spontaneous, busy, probably a little too careless if the truth be known. But I need to also be safe, safe in the house, safe in the garden. There is a lot of self isolation ahead of us and I want to continue with this yard clearing, house cleaning, climbing up to do the tops of the wardrobes etc.jobs. I need those kind of jobs to keep me busy with worthwhile projects while I am confined to my house and yard, being careful of course but still achieving something worthwhile. It would be different if I had someone here to help me or just to be available to ring an ambulance or bandage me up when I need it. But I don't.


This is the downside of being a widow.


Bah humbug.



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Oh Sue, If anyone can relate to those feelings it is us. You remember what you used to be able to do and you just go ahead and do it and then you go "Ouch" when it all comes unstuck.


It is about risk management and mitigation.  Before you start to do something you need to think about the things that can go wrong and then make your plan for what you are going to do if that something does happen. and be prepared.  What can you do differently to either avoid the risk completely or what can you do to minimise the damage. Boy scouts did get one thing right 🙂

Be prepared and you should be able to reduce the fear both within yourself and your family.


If your plan says no more climbing ladders then how are you going to get those jobs done? Do you make a list and arrange for a handyman to come every couple of months?


If you can't walk and carry a heavy bucket any more then use a bag or drag a sack, get creative. are you safer sitting on the ground or kneeling to do your garden work. if you are going to sit or kneel how are you going to get up again? etc.Remember solutions need to be practical not elegant, elegant is a bonus, if the neighbors think you've gone looney that's not your problem.


When living on your own there are always jobs that have to be done that have risks attached. One method I have used is the call before and after. I used to do this when cleaning the gutters alone pre stroke.  Like logging into the rangers station when going for a hike.  You call a friend and explain what you doing and when you expect to be finished. You call them back as soon as you finish the job. If they don't get another call from you before your allocated time they will call in the emergency services.


Take care and don't stop living your life. Fear needs to be used as a reminder and motivator not allowed to lock you in a box.



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Sue :

heather gave excellent suggestions,  have you thought about assisted living like quarters which Jean riva has decided to move in, its condo in the community( continuum care campus) where you are surrounded by similar age group people  so you are not totally isolated & have help all around year.  I wish you strength  in adjusting to this new reality. As we grow older things change & we got to adapt with this changes not pleasant but harsh reality of life, unfortunately I encountered that bitter truth at 34 & still living it & worry getting old with this disability. right now have hubby don't know what will happen to me if I ever have to live alone. I am sure kido will be busy in his own life. Even now he is more close to his dad than me 😞


Sorry rambled on about my own fears.



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I set off up the back this morning with my mobile phone in a small pack so IF I encountered difficulties I could alert my next door neighbour who I know is home this morning. I think if I am sensible I will be okay. I discussed the situation with Trevor last night and he felt guilty because he would have done the jobs I need doing. Blaming the C-19 for the fact he wasn't allowed to come down to me last week. ASHA, what will be in your future none of us know. Do your "going with the flow",  enjoy the present and let future take care of itself.

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That's right Sue, mostly we are OK it's not so hard to live alone. You make a few adjustments and you learn to not sweat the small stuff that isn't done the way you like it when you have to get people in to do the stuff you used to do yourself.  Hopefully not too much longer and Trevor will be able to come down.

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Oh Sue. Not good.

I can see why you have a fear of falling.


Somewhere in your mobile, you can put in an SOS number.

Then in a time of need, you press the power button three times.

Maybe Trevor could have a look?


Please take care.

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