Things to do before its too late

Time is moving on.

We who are at the end of our lifespans should be thinking about how to succeed safely with failing strength, failing vision, failing thought processes and slower reaction times.
Oh the joys of ageing. My father always said “it beats the alternative”. I suppose it does indeed.

I am going to speak here about a few things brought to mind recently by a dear friend’s experience with a fall at home. She lives alone.

Folks who live alone are at special risk because they lack assistance in emergency situations. Folks who are isolated from the community or neighbors are less likely to be discovered if they have a fall and can not reach a phone or other device to call for aid. I know many autistic people are quite isolated. What can you do to protect yourself and ensure your own safety?

If this is your situation, you need to take immediate action to protect yourself in case of emergency. 30 years ago the ad with the words “help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” were a laugh for the youngsters. Now those youngsters are the elderly of today and its not so funny.

My friend fell at the bottom of her basement steps and could not get up, and it was hours before she was rescued and taken to the hospital where she needed surgery to bolt her bones back together. Only her inspired use of the alarm feature on the fob of the car key she had with her was able to eventually summon a curious neighborhood person to seek out the reason for the constant alarm sounding. It took a further 3 days to contact me and let me know what had happened, so that i could offer assistance for care of her pets and her home. Prior preparation of an emergency contacts list might have helped. We had never discussed what either of us would do to help the other if needed. It could have given peace of mind if we had!
It set me thinking, and worrying about those autistic elderly who live alone. If you fell and were injured, how long would it be before somebody would find you ? If you become injured, is your house set up to accommodate a cane, crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, grab rails for positioning oneself while in the bathroom or bathing, getting up from a chair or sofa, your bed? What things can be done right now to prepare for future disability? We all like to think “it won’t happen to me” and go on our way, but statistics prove otherwise. We are much more likely to need aids of some sort as we age, than not. Most people will spend an average 1 to 3 months in a nursing home or similar facility toward the end of their lives.

If you are alone daily, do you have anybody who checks in with you frequently to see that things are OK? Have you tried to arrange furniture and remove obstacles and trip hazards where they exist? Have you got a safe place to prepare food, do you use hand rails when going up and down stairs? There are safety check lists available all over the internet. Take a peek and think about what needs improvement.

Do you have a list of phone numbers of people you can call on for aid if needed? How would you care for pets, dependent others, your home or other obligations if you were suddenly confined to hospital or nursing home? Do you have permission written for your pets to be cared for by your vet if you are not able to? Most veterinarians will not allow just anybody to bring a pet for treatment without your written permission and statement of responsibility. Does your potential pet care person have your vet’s contact information and pertinent records?

Do you have a power of attorney and do you have a living will ( discusses what you want for your care if you are unable to speak with your carers about it at the time you need help)? Does your power of attorney or other trusted person know where to find things like your will, banking details, important people to notify, etc??? These are all things to make sure you have ready if you need them. If you have a fall or other sudden emergency it will be too late to try to set all of that up. Think about it and take action!

It is good to talk to others about these things ahead of time and to have a plan in place. I am currently spending some time trying to learn about the devices one wears as a bracelet or necklace which can detect a fall or put one in touch with help at the touch of a button. There are many plans available and many levels of access… from constant monitoring to check ins scheduled, to call only when you need aid.

I urge all older adults to give thought to what you will need to contact help in any given situation, and to set a plan into motion.

The steps you take now, before you need help, may save your life or be the difference between recovery and lasting disability. How would you get help if you fell far from your phone or your home, were trapped in the tub or at the bottom of your stairs?

What things will help prevent falls, help you get up from lying on the floor or a seated position, will help you with every day physical needs such as feeding yourself, bathing, toileting, dressing, pet and household care? Think about it now before you need it. Then Do something about it! Protect yourself. Statistics tell us most of us will be experiencing such things as we age.

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