You may have read recently about the 85 year old matriarch of the New York Giants football team who fell during an ice storm and two weeks later died on Super Bowl Sunday from head injuries suffered in the fall. Maybe you also read about another senior who apparently fell in the snow last weekend and was found dead the next day alongside a neighbor’s car. On the same weekend, an elderly man in New York died in the cold while walking home using a different route than normal. His family didn’t find him until it was too late.
Snow and ice are dangerous for all of us, but for seniors the hazard is multiplied. There are two things at work here. First, as we age our muscles weaken, our knees often become less stable, we are often heavier, and our reactions are slower. Couple that with weakening bones, and fractures and even death become more and more a risk.
But the other thing is that mental functions slow as well. Many seniors over-estimate their physical abilities and underestimate the dangers of even minor risks.
My Mom lived at home alone for many years after my Dad died. That was the way she wanted it. She had a cane, which I thought she was using. At least she told me she was. Well, she wasn’t. I was visiting her one day and the phone rang. She got up to answer it, left her cane behind, and nearly fell. That was an early sign of worse things to come.
One day she fell in the snow going out to get the mail. At the hospital I asked her why in the world she went out in the snow to get it. She said she heard the mailman come, and she always went right out. Well, like many seniors living at home alone, she had her daily schedule and never varied from it. The mail came, so out she went. And down she went.
There are many so-called experts who say home is the best place for seniors. Home care agencies have sprung up on every street corner, or so it seems. Respectfully, I disagree and think home is one of the most dangerous places they can be. Homes simply aren’t designed for the elderly. That’s why you have so many companies that say they can make homes safe for seniors by putting in ramps, grab rails, and more. Sure, those things help, but they don’t give a senior good judgment. None of those things help on ice or snow.
Shouldn’t seniors know better than to go out in the snow? Well, maybe. But they do it anyway. They don’t want to give in to old age. And all too many of them die from their mistakes, even the wealthy who can afford the best home care.
It took me too long to see the light with my own Mom. Two broken shoulders and two broken hips too long. That’s why I cringe when I hear about seniors being told home is best for them.
If your Mom or Dad is still at home, and has had a fall or two or three, or has some problems with judgment, I can only say get them into assisted living. I finally did, and I’m sure it saved my Mom’s life.