Getting Back on Your Feet After a Fall

Yes, You Can Get Back Up Again


If you’ve watched a fair amount of television over the past 30 years or so, chances are you’ve seen the Life Alert® commercial with the elderly woman lying on the floor who cries, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Maybe you’ve even chuckled at the actress’s melodramatic performance. But once you’ve gotten older and experienced a sudden fall when no one else is around for yourself, you know it’s no laughing matter.

In the second of our series on avoiding and recovering from falls, we take a close look at what aging adults can do to help get themselves or someone else up off the floor and do a quick damage assessment.

If You Should Fall

Let’s say the unthinkable happens. You’re carrying a large box of photos to work on a scrapbook. You trip over unseen cat or a misplaced throw rug. Next thing you know, you’re in a heap on the floor and help is nowhere in sight. Here’s what to do:

  • Remain calm and assess your physical well-being.
  • Can you get up? Do you feel pain if you try?
  • Stay down as long as it takes to assess your condition, and do not make any overly strenuous or sudden movements.

When you’re ready to get up, follow these steps:

  • Lie down on your side. Bend your top leg and lift your upper body into position resting on your elbow.
  • Pull your body toward a sturdy stationary object. Drag yourself up into a kneeling position while using your hands to pull yourself up.
  • Put your strong leg in front of your body while you are holding the stationary object.
  • Stand up. Check to see if you are bleeding or feel excessive pain that may suggest a broken bone.
  • If you are near a chair, turn, sit down, and call for assistance. A video that clearly demonstrates these movements and other get-yourself-up techniques are available here.

If you cannot get up or fall back down, follow these steps:

  • If you think you can be heard, call out for help.
  • If you can reach your cell phone without straining yourself, or if you have a fall-prevention lanyard, use it to call for assistance.
  • If you do not have your cell phone or an emergency call device on hand, slide yourself to the nearest phone or bench.
  • Make as much noise as possible to draw attention to yourself. Use your walking implement if you have one.
  • Get as comfortable as possible and wait for help.

If Your Friend or Loved One Falls

If you’re with a person who has fallen and you cannot get them up by yourself, call for medical assistance, and then administer first aid without moving them. If you do not know first aid, make sure the person is as comfortable as possible until professional medical assistance arrives. Pay special attention to the joints in case something has broken.

If the person who has fallen can get up, help them by bringing a chair. Then follow the five steps listed above for getting yourself up in the section titled, “If You Should Fall.”

Getting Help

Whether you are the victim of a fall or the “first responder” on the scene, you should never underestimate the gravity of a fall for an older adult. Do not assume that just because no after-effects are readily apparent that there are none.

If any of the following things seem to follow as a result of a fall, call a doctor immediately:

  • Any visually apparent injury or lingering pain.
  • Weakness,dizziness or nausea.
  • Drowsiness or loss of consciousness.
  • Headaches or vision problems.

These symptoms may appear immediately after a fall or they could take a few days to

Any elder adult who is at risk of falling should have a charged cell phone in an easily accessible place. However, having an emergency fall device is even better. These devices have only one function—summoning professional medical help immediately. They also have a much longer battery life and are much easier for many older adults to use. Some of these devices may even be connected to insurance programs that can help pay for the equipment.

We hope some of these ideas will keep you or a loved one from spending some unpleasant hours alone on the floor or ground with no access to food, water or a bathroom. Stay tuned for the third and final installment in this series where we look at how to regain strength and confidence when not breaking your fall ends up damaging part of your body.

First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, October, 2019. Some content was provided by mayoclinic.org and aging.com

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