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I must admit I rather miss Fall, as in the season; the crisp, cooler air, the changing leaves, even raking and bagging leaves was something I enjoyed.  Taking trips to the cider mill was an annual tradition, along with pumpkin carving, Halloween festivities, and planning ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas.   Now, however, when I think of the word “fall”, it has an entirely different feel to it, and I find myself more inclined to use Autumn to describe this time of year.

A few years ago, I became intimately acquainted with the consequences of falling.  I had just gotten back from my daily walk at the local mall and decided it was time to move the pot of mums from my son’s wedding from the front porch to the back patio.  I picked up the pot, carried it through the house to the back sliding glass door, opened it up, stepped down onto the first wide step, then down the second step onto the patio when all of a sudden, my foot slipped inward for some unknown reason, and I fell, hard.

I knew immediately I had done some serious damage to my right ankle; I tried to assess if I could stand up, and knew I couldn’t, so I butt-scooted my way back into the house, almost passed out, and started yelling for my brother to come help me.  Now, my brother, Tim, has Down syndrome, and was in his room upstairs with the TV on, but eventually he sauntered his way down to find out what I was yelling about.   He brought me the phone and I called my husband, and then 911.

It was an embarrassing moment when the paramedics and firemen walked in to find me on the floor, but thankfully, I was dressed and had my makeup on.  Don’t laugh.  Those little dignities matter to us women.  To make a long story short, I had, in that simple slip and fall, broken my tibia and fibula in my right leg, and also broken the bone along the outer edge of my left foot.  I came home with both legs in temporary casts, could not weight bear on either, and had to have surgery the next week to put in plates and screws.  I have, all told, broken both of my ankles a total of four times, have had three surgeries, and am fortunate to be able to walk without a limp.  I also fell another time, bruised my left foot, and ended up in the hospital for a week with a DVT (deep vein thrombosis blood clot).  So broken bones are not the only consequence of a fall.

Falls can, and do kill.  This past year my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law (that is the only way I could figure out how to put that other than my brother-in-law’s wife’s sister’s husband) was trimming a tree and fell off the ladder.  He died.  It shook me to the point I have forbidden my husband from mowing the lawn in the heat of the day, and hiring someone to trim our trees.  It is hard to admit we are not as sturdy and indestructible as we used to think we were, and falls are often preventable with the administration of simple common sense and precautions.

Here are some sobering facts and statistics to consider:

  • Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
  • One in every four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
  • Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the ER for a fall with over 3,000,00 treated per year.
  • Older adults who fall are two times more likely to fall again.
  • Falls are the #1 cause of hip fractures with 300,000 hospitalizations per year.
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.11Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Don’t take chances when it comes to doing things that may cause you to fall.  No one plans on falling, but we can take steps to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of one.   And be careful on ladders.  Please note The Villages Public Safety will change the batteries in your smoke detectors for you by calling them at 352-205-8280.