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Don't Be a Fall Guy or Gal

Falling is a serious problem, particularly for the elderly. Often, they're shut in their homes, with no one to help them. One case was that of Jane Mueller, who lived in a Kissimmee apartment. No one had heard from her in a while, so her friends called the police to do a welfare check. Jane was a real clutter bug, with stuff strewn everywhere in her apartment. There was one little path through the clutter, and she was found at the end of the strip, facedown. On closer inspection, investigators found she had been carrying a hairbrush in her hand with the end pointed upward. She tripped and fell on an uneven rug, and the end of the brush went through her eye and into her brain. She died in a puddle of blood from an accidental fall, in a most unusual yet tragic way.

All of us — no matter how old or how young — can take precautions to prevent falls:

  • Keep your muscles and bones strong by following an exercise program.
  • Don't forget to get sufficient calcium and vitamin D, two critical factors in developing strong bones. These nutrients are available in fortified dairy products.
  • Make your home safer with simple improvements, such as good lighting to eliminate dark areas; slip-resistant walking surfaces; grab bars and a night-light in the bathroom; and handrails on stairs.
  • Remove throw rugs from doorways and hallways. They often fold over or bunch up, turning them into booby traps for anyone shuffling down the hall.
  • Keep your home or apartment free from clutter.
  • Practice good ladder safety by having someone hold the ladder while you work.
  • Wear shoes with good support, leather soles, and rubber heels.
  • Rearrange the furniture throughout your home, so that the paths between rooms are free of obstructions. Also, make sure telephone and appliance cords aren't strung across floors, where they can be tripped over.
  • If you have fallen before, consider a full physical evaluation and balance screening, as well as vision and hearing tests.


Excerpted from How Not to Die by Jan Garavaglia, M.D.

Copyright © 2008 by Atlas Media Corp. and Jan Garavaglia, M.D.

Permission granted by Crown Publishers, New York, NY