Blog 46: Falls and Falling

As we moved into 2012, we had to worry too, not only about Bill’s prolonged sleeping but also about his falls.

Blog 046 Image 1Bill, on the occasion of his granddaughter’s Christening, 28 August 2011

Look at this photo.  You can see Bill quite clearly, standing with us as we celebrate.  He is standing independently and though I am by his side, I am there to help him comprehend, rather than to hold him upright.  There is no sign that he might fall and, in fact, at that stage, that worry was furthest from our minds.

Then, two months later, in November 2011, Bill started to have falls.  At first, they were what the nurse called, soft falls.  When, for example, Bill slid to the floor, trying to get himself out of the recliner chair, he fell softly and didn’t injure himself. When the paramedics set him on his feet, they could see that he was not hurt and did not need to go to hospital.

Other soft falls occurred when Bill didn’t position his body on the chair properly or when I toppled him, trying to change him at night.  Because I changed him in a spot where he was surrounded by furniture, Bill was able to grab on to things as he went down and save himself.

But soon after, Bill started to have some falls that bruised him and grazed him.  One occurred when, knowing a taxi was on its way for us, I raced out the back door to turn off the hose that was topping up the pool with water.  Bill hurried out after me, tripped in the doorway and fell.  Luckily, the taxi arrived at that moment and the driver helped me get him up.  Another time, Bill’s walker collapsed from under him as he lifted it up on to a step.  Thankfully, our neighbours, who lived directly opposite, came to our aid.

The nurses talked about hip supports.

“If Bill broke a hip,” they’d say, “it’d make life really difficult for both of you.”

I was thinking: Care Facility!

But before we went to either of those lengths, we did our usual act of looking to see if we could solve the problem.

We determined that Bill was taking falls because, firstly, he was losing his sense of awareness, secondly, he was losing strength and thirdly, his feet and legs were swollen.

We began giving Bill protein drinks in the hope that they would help him build up his strength. Then we looked into fixing the problem of Bill’s swollen feet and legs.  We found that, because he was no longer very strong and could not push the recliner chair’s extension down, we could elevate Bill’s feet for most of the time that he was in that chair.  To my amazement, this treatment, together with a course of fluid tablets, actually seemed to solve the problem. As I watched, over a matter of a fortnight, Bill’s feet and legs became dramatically more trim.

But my hopes that we would see permanent improvements in Bill’s physical condition were soon dashed as it became obvious that those slender feet and ankles were making no difference at all.  Bill still could not stand or walk without support, could not manage to walk for greater distances and still had the occasional fall.

I guess that the body awareness factor and Bill’s decreasing strength played greater roles in this decline and fall than we had expected.

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