Everyone falls. Babies learning to walk fall repeatedly. It’s part of the process. Kids fall from, off and over things. In the year 2016-2017, injuries from falling accounted for one third of all admission for injuries for to the children’s hospital in my home town. Active adults also fall (over, from, off, down, etc.) The more active and adventurous the person, the more likely they are to fall.
To fall, as anyone who learnt grammar knows, is a verb, a doing word. We talk about falling leaves, falling walls and falling prices.
A fall, on the other hand, is a noun. It’s a thing that happens, with no attributable agency. When we say, ‘He had a fall,’ we imply that the poor old fellow was a helpless victim of some external event. Things happen to him, rather than he does things, now he’s old.
I can’t remember when the word ‘fall’ became a noun, but I resist it the way I also resist some other terms that have crept into the vocabulary of television presenters, such as ‘take a look’ and ‘have a listen’.
How old must a person be before they stop tripping, slipping, stumbling, tumbling, faltering and losing their footing? An old person does none of these, apparently, but they do have falls!
There can be serious consequence when an older person falls. Injuries sustained when a frail aged person falls can be horrifying. Morbidity rates that result from those injuries are alarming. We should learn, perhaps through some of the wonderful programs available, how to prevent falling.
We should make an effort to prevent ourselves from injury from falling, and also to make sure those we love are safe. Programs like Stay on your Feet, developed by the Western Australian Health Department are readily available.
I once tried to visit a friend in a rehabilitation ward in a hospital. A nurse barred my way.
‘Your friend has gone to a Stay on your Feet Program,’ she said. ‘Everyone has to attend before they are discharged. You should go and be with her.’ She looked me up and down. ‘You certainly qualify.’
How to prevent falls
- Old people should stay as physically and mentally active as possible. We should move around often and improve our balance and the strength our legs.
- We need to keep healthy, eat well and ensure we take appropriate medication. This also means not allowing ourselves to be over-dosed with even prescription medications. Pharmacists and doctors, please note.
- Our homes should be safe, with obvious hazards like broken tiles and unnecessary mats removed. Eyesight should be corrected. Safe footwear is essential.
Even after taking these precautions, we may still slip, stumble or trip. We also need to watch our language.
Imagine one’s children measuring time by saying, ‘That would have been around the time of mother’s first fall.’
For that reason, if for no other, I refuse, point blank, to have a fall.