After a fall, it's hard to pick ourselves up, especially for elderly

05/25/2011 12:00 AM

05/24/2011 11:24 AM

When my mom, Rose Beebe, fell two days before Mother's Day, it took the wind out of my sails.

Given she was 88 and feeble, I'd realized that a fall was probably inevitable and had been grateful for every day she was upright and mobile.

Mom was too weak to sit up on Mother's Day, so my siblings and I celebrated at her bedside. Despite having a slight concussion, she was still her sweet, jovial self.

Exhausted, I went to bed that night thankful she wasn't seriously injured and prayed for her speedy recovery.

But my peaceful slumber didn't last long.

When my phone rang at 1 a.m., I knew it wasn't good.

Someone from Mom's memory care facility called to tell me she had fallen and an ambulance was on its way. I jumped out of bed and headed the few blocks to her place.

Hearing the harsh sound of the ambulance sirens made me feel sick.

When I came into Mom's room she was on the floor, on her side against the wall. She had a tight grip on a bag of potato chips that had been on her nightstand. (A humorous testament to Mom's love of junk food.) I bent down close to her and asked, "Mom, are you OK?"

"Hi honey," she said, looking confused. "My head hurts."

The paramedics began to assess her, asking what happened and where she hurt.

With Alzheimer's patients it can be hard to get any concrete information. Either they can't recall an incident or they sometimes make things up.

Mom moaned loudly as they put her in a neck brace, strapped her to a board and loaded her into the ambulance.

Miraculously, again, Mom didn't break any bones. At 5 a.m., we left the ER and headed back to her place. I tucked her into her bed and headed home to grab a few hours sleep before I stared my workday.

My siblings and I were very concerned about Mom taking another spill, knowing her luck wouldn't endure the state of her brittle bones.

Until we could get a grip on her rate of recovery, we hired caregivers for a week to be with her around the clock.

Although expensive, it offered peace of mind that she would be safe and I could catch my breath and recuperate from the stressful events of the past few days.

Mom slept a lot the days after her fall and complained that her back and legs hurt, but she has a strong constitution and rallied quickly. Her appetite was good and she attended daily physical therapy sessions.

However, she still wasn't walking.

When someone tried to help Mom up, she couldn't stand up straight, complained she was dizzy and was very unsteady. We began using a wheelchair to transport her around the facility.

Of course, I hated this, because she always said she never wanted to be in a wheelchair and I knew there was a possibility she may never get out of one.

I met with Mom's physician to discuss her prognosis. She said Mom's vertigo would last another week or so and that she should continue physical therapy to increase her strength and flexibility. She said the determining factor in Mom walking again would be how great her fear is of falling. The doctor explained that often, when seniors fall, they are too afraid to walk again.

This was sobering to me, because Mom was fearful before her first fall, and she was telling us she was afraid now. The doctor said it would be a month before we knew how things would pan out. I could only hope her anxiety wouldn't overshadow her ability to be mobile.

To help prevent Mom from falling again, the doctor prescribed an electronic device that attaches to Mom's chair or bed and alerts the staff if she tries to get up.

I realize this is the best we can do for Mom, and I hope everything will be OK, but worry is always in the background.

I came to visit Mom recently and she was in a deep sleep in her recliner. I caressed her face and gave her a kiss to try to wake her but couldn't rouse her.

So I just sat with her, holding her hand and happy to be close to her. After a few minutes she muttered something I couldn't understand. I put my ear close to her mouth and said, "What did you say, Mom?"

"I'm going to live a long time," she said, keeping her eyes closed.

"Yes, Mom, You're going to make it to a 100," I replied, knowing this had always been her goal.

"I'm going to go past that," she answered with confidence. "Because I love my kids soooo much."

Editor's note: In Lisa Moore's column, "Generations," she writes about the challenges and healing she experiences as a member of the Sandwich Generation: those caring for a parent and a child.

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