Smart Elders Who Reject Alert Pendants, Thinking They’re Careful and Won’t Fall–Wrong, sadly!

Independence vs. Broken Hip

We try to help parents age well and we’re aware of the statistics.  After 65 the chances of a fall increase; ditto the damage which  increases as people’s bones become more  brittle.  Down the line we realize that many people age, and suddenly look more fragile.

So I write yesterday’s planned post today, from a rehab center where my 97-year-old mother-in-law and a senior advisor, R, is recovering after falling 10 days ago in her home and having surgery to put a pin in her broken hip.

R. (hover over senior advisor tab above for her “bio”), like many older people fortunate to have (as she calls it) “a good brain,” values her independence above all. She took precautions to prevent falling in her home and has never hesitated to gracefully ask for help (your arm) when she feels unsteady.  She never dreamed she would fall in her home and thus, rejected the idea of a pendant that would alert someone she needed help.

The result: she fell in her living room, while walking to the kitchen, having noticed a decorative object on a desk had been moved by her every-other-week cleaning person.  She reached to move it, lost her balance, and grabbed a nearby chair.  But it wasn’t heavy enough to hold her. Both fell on the carpet. The next three hours were spent pulling her body with her arms across the carpet to a telephone; she called a nephew; he called 911.

I share R’s experience to help aging parents and others who live alone and resist “alert button” bracelets or necklaces. While they don’t prevent falls, they do prevent skinned knees from carpet burns, pain, and possible further hip damage from trying to get to a telephone…and worse. And they needn’t be worn all the time.

Indeed, a woman in her mid-80’s who shares an apartment with her son in the northeast, only wears the bracelet when she enters her Florida apartment–where she live alone in the winter.  She says she leaves the bracelet near the door and puts it on the minute she enters that apartment.

While we do our best to help our aging parents, the odds can catch up with even the most smart, independent and remarkable seniors….evident from the older people with broken hips in this rehab center.  We can only try to reduce the damage. Perhaps R’s experience can provide an opening for discussion with older parents who live alone and refuse–or don’t use–those “alarm button” pendants.

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