Thursday, April 25, 2024

A fall risk? Oh no, not me!

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I am a 78-year-old recently retired Registered Nurse, Midwife and Remote Area Nurse. My career was personally fulfilling having spent most of it looking after people’s health across NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

I myself am blessed with good health, which has allowed me to pursue a very active retirement since turning 71 – travelling extensively with my husband and two little King Charles Cavaliers.

My only medical diagnosis is hypertension, which is being effectively treated.

A bone density test last year confirmed the absence of osteoporosis. We walk 3 to 4km every day with our dogs and enjoy gardening, going to the beach, weekly yoga and playing golf.

The house we bought when we moved to Caloundra, Queensland, from Forster NSW was already fitted with features to avoid slip/fall risks. We agreed to leave them in place even though we secretly thought that they would not be needed for a long time. After all, we were both fit, not overweight, active and not what we considered a ‘falls risk’. 

Exercise has been my key to keeping independent and having a good sense of wellbeing. 

I want to share my recent accident with readers as a serious reminder to always ensure personal safety during fitness routines – ie: engage with exercise experts, declutter space, wear appropriate footwear, ensure safe exercise space and, when the opportunity presents, exercise with others.

My husband was exercising at our local gym and I was exercising at home alone. This was part of our daily fitness and balance routine. I had completed my floor exercises and decided to stretch my calves by standing on a low stool on a tiled floor and dropping my heels. As my weight shifted back, the stool slid on the tiles and flew up in the air along with my feet. My entire body weight landed on my left elbow, effectively smashing my shoulder into the joint. I heard the bones break on impact and immediately knew that I had done irreparable damage.

When I regained some composure, I was able to crawl to the coffee table to retrieve my mobile phone and call the ambulance. The ambulance arrived in 10 minutes, assessed the injury and transported me to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital under the Trauma Team. The Trauma Team Team confirmed irreparable damage and booked me for a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement.

How did this happen to an otherwise fit healthy 78-year-old? Oh no – not me!

I am two weeks post surgery and the staff at the hospital reported anecdotally that my accident in my own home is the most common reason for traumatic injuries admitted to their ward.

Today, as I recover, I realise that I am at risk despite the fact that I don’t consider myself to be frail. This change in my mindset is necessary for me to protect myself better as I age. I now know – Oh yes – it was me!

It’s always good to speak to your GP or a local exercise professional such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist. Or, better still, join a strength and balance program such as Stepping On or Active and Healthy for Life (both of which are free and accessible face to face or online)  https://www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au/

You can find a physio in your area by visiting www.fallsnetwork.neura.edu.au/aprilfalls

An excellent exercise at home resource is https://www.safeexerciseathome.org.au/

Author: Diane Ferguson, Sunshine Coast QLD

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