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A Senior Nursery Rhyme: And We All Fall Down


I did not gather you here today to form a circle and lead you in a child's game of Ring Around the Rosy, at the end of which we all fall down. It was fun when we were kids and could bounce up off the play yard like balloons, laughing and clapping in delight. Well, it ain't so much fun anymore.

The death and injury rate among seniors who take spills has risen steadily over the years to become the predominant reason they are rushed to emergency hospitals. By one estimate, about 30,000 make it to an ER every week because of  falling; of those, 250 die.

I had occasion to think about this two weeks ago when I fell on my face while simply walking toward the front door. I don't know why I fell. I was just suddenly down, all 180 pounds of me, bleeding from a cut on my forehead and deeper cuts on a leg and ankle. My right shoulder was wrenched and remains in pain to this very moment.

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A few days later, I fell for a second time and began getting serious about why I was suddenly thrown to the floor or the ground, moaning as much from embarrassment as pain. I was vulnerable to another curse of aging and I didn't like it very much. In fact, not at all.

Medications that make one drowsy or dizzy, failing vision, blackouts, loss of balance and an increasing number of new products in our homes may be among the basic causes. Falls that are "product-related" are especially on the increase, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Seniors over 75 are the most vulnerable to falls, the CPSC says,the number of falls increasing by an astounding 73 percent from 1991 to 2002-three times as much as for younger age groups.

What to do about it? What I did was talk to three different doctors (an internist, a cardiologist and a pulmonologist) about drugs they had prescribed for me. I discovered that most of my prescriptions warned of dizziness. But while they suggested caution while operating heavy machinery, none advised that same caution while walking to the front door. I just had to be aware of the wretched possibilities.

I was tested for strokes and blood clots and found them not to be a reason for my falls. Nor was my eyesight a problem. A physical therapist suggested it was just a case of growing older, living longer, and losing a sense of physical balance. I'm exercising now to regain it.

I'm hoping not to fall again. It's a humiliating experience finding one's self on a dog's level of vision and feeling like the older lady of television commercial fame who fell and couldn't get up. I doubt that she was down there from playing   Ring Around the Rosy.


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