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When Even Smart People Ignore the Obvious

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A mild concussion. Thankfully, that is all I had after I foolishly climbed on a chair to reach an upper kitchen cabinet, slipped and fell. But still—I’ve spent two days in bed nursing a headache and “thick head,” and I will likely have to do it again tomorrow. Ugh!

No one ever plans to have an accident. That’s why they’re called accidents. In recent weeks, I have actually fallen several times (once on a 30-mile bike ride and once running for a train—details on that one below), and I know two other people who have fallen—one tripped at home and hit her head and bruised her face…the other fell when entering an elevator. But for the grace of some angels watching over all of us, things were not much worse.

A few stats to scare the pants off of you—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three million older adults go to the emergency room every year because they fell. And 800,000 people of all ages are hospitalized due to falls, usually because of a head injury or a broken bone…and 300,000 are hospitalized for hip fractures.

Accidents are going to happen, but we don’t have to make them more likely. At the risk of infantilizing my readers—which I hate to do—there are some incredibly obvious things to stay aware of. Why am I telling you these? Because while we all know these to be true, clearly a whole lot of us don’t always take the proper care…

  1. Wear proper footwear. Last week, when I was running up the steps to catch a train, I actually tripped again! Why? I was wearing boots with a heel. They’re fine for walking, but they are not made for running upstairs. Over the years, I have given away more than one pair of shoes that I deemed unsafe after tripping in them multiple times, even though some were so pretty and I hated to part with them. It just wasn’t worth the risk.
  2. Get the darn step stool from the closet. Why walk to the closet when I can just grab a chair, right? Well, apparently wrong. If I had taken my time and gotten the step stool, well…
  3. Take your time and focus. I was only half paying attention when I was climbing on that chair because I was busy thinking about what I had to do after I found what I needed in the cabinet. If I had slowed down and focused fully on what I was doing, I would have been sure to place my foot firmly on the seat and focus on the step up.
  4. Don’t be lazy. Years ago, a friend fell from a ladder because he tried to ”hop” the ladder along the side of his house while cleaning gutters since he only needed to reach a little further. Yeah, that shortcut didn’t work so well either.
  5. Get your eyes checked. My sister used to trip frequently until she went to a new eye doctor who realized that she had a focusing issue and adjusted her prescription appropriately. Proper glasses…no more tripping.
  6. Don’t shuffle. Do you shuffle your feet or drag your heels when you walk? Or do you properly raise your knees and walk heal-toe? Pay attention to how you walk to determine what you really do. Scuffing along when you are young can become a dangerous habit when you are older. Retrain yourself now to avoid problems in the future.
  7. Ask for help. We all want to be able to get it all done without bothering other people or, perish the thought, paying a trained professional (who, by the way, will have the proper equipment needed to do the job safely). Get over it. Ask for the help and pay the money. It’s cheaper in the long run.
  8. Use the handrail. Do you have wooden steps? They sure are slippery. I’ve heard way too many stories of slips down the steps. Grab the handrail, and place your foot fully on each step when walking down.

To my older friends who read this…and to those who care for aging parents…two other things to consider:

No one wants to use those silly “Help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” devices. Older people often assume that they’re safe, especially when they are “just” at home. But ask my friend about her father—he spent 12 hours on the floor after falling down the basement stairs. And even if you have emergency pull cords all around your house, if you don’t fall within reach of one, they won’t do you any good.

If you want a little more style: The new Apple Watch has an emergency call feature if you want a more contemporary version of the call button and the Apple Watch can call even if your iPhone is not nearby.

And for outside, there’s the Road ID bracelet—I’ve written about them before. It won’t help you call for help if you fall while walking, running, skateboarding, out on your motorcycle, etc., but it will identify you and provide an emergency phone number to contact.

Obvious stuff? Yes. Extremely practical? Guilty again. I truly hate stating the obvious, but then again, I would hate it more if I didn’t share the lessons I learned from my own stupidity.

You’re welcome.

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