The Elderly – Not The Only Trippers
Young, Impatient and Bullet Proof
Well the impatient part got Geoff into serious trouble. He is a 50 year old man who tripped over while walking between carpet and polished floor boards. Looking at Geoff’s history, he is more prone to falling than the average 50 year old male. Geoff had a car accident 7 years earlier and as a result, he sustained severe injuries to both his lower legs. Broken bones were only the start of the injuries. He also sustained nerve and muscle damage from the knee to toes due to high forces involved in the traumatic car accident.
And there was more, just to add more complications – because broken bones, nerve and muscle damage aren’t enough. After a week in hospital following that accident, the nurses noticed Geoff had a red swollen area around the surgery site of one leg. Within a day it had spread to both legs. He had developed a skin infection around the surgery site that needed powerful antibiotics to help heal the infected skin. Geoff was hospitalised for about 3 months to recover from the injuries and that infection.
Returning home from hospital, Geoff had to continue intensive rehabilitation to improve mobility as much as possible. Geoff is left with a list of problems that will be a permanent reminder of that traumatic car accident. The large scars from knee to ankle are very obvious and over time slowly shrink like a memory through history. Nerve damage has many ongoing issues, from decreased sensation in the feet, inability to know exactly when your foot is touching the ground and foot drop where the toes don’t lift up high enough to clear small rises in the floor. The powerful muscles of the legs are designed for carrying large weights while walking. Geoff’s muscles had shrunk in size making walking very difficult.
After a prolonged period of rehabilitation Geoff could walk unaided. This was a huge milestone and improved his sense of a fulfilling life. All of Geoff’s progress was achieved with the support of a loving family.
Now we have a good understanding of Geoff’s background. Lets look at what caused Geoff’s crisis point that needed admission to an emergency department (ED).
It was a warm winter’s day and Geoff was out mowing the lawn for about 3 hours. He didn’t hydrate himself for that period of time and began to feel dizzy. Geoff raced inside for a drink and went up stairs to go to the toilet. On rushing through the bedroom door, he tripped and fell heavily on the right leg and couldn’t get up because of the pain. Geoff described the trip as feeling his right foot catch on the carpet and left foot on polished floor slipped under his body. What had happened is the lack feeling and movement in his right leg didn’t allow Geoff to lift up his foot to clear the carpet.
The change in height and texture from the carpet to floor caused Geoff’s foot to drag on the carpet, unbalance him and caused the fall. Luckily his daughter heard the loud thud and found him lying on the floor. The ambulance was called and Geoff was admitted to the ED.
Extent of the Injury
Geoff was in a lot of pain in ED. His right leg was turned out and he couldn’t move it (one sign of a possible broken leg). The blood was still going to the toes which was a positive. Geoff needed a lot of morphine to control the pain and allow procedures like X-Ray and plastering to be done.
The X-Ray revealed a fractured* lower tibia* and higher fibula*. It was a blow for Geoff. He knew he would be back in theatre having an operation to repair the broken bones. Also Geoff was in for another round of rehabilitation.
What to Know
Rushing around increases the risk of tripping and falling
Know your limitations: Be aware of your physical impairments because they will increase the risk of falling
Have even floors with no raised areas that can catch a foot
If you have an increased risk of a fall, make sure someone is with you or have an emergency button to call for help.
Footwear needs to be sturdy: flat, grippy shoes
Socks on polished floors is a sure sign of trouble ahead.
Are you a carer whose patient had with similar experience? How did you cope? Please leave a comment.
FRACTURE: A broken bone (the common written symbol for a fracture is denoted by #, e.g. # hip)
TIBIA: Long bone of lower leg also known as the shin bone.
FIBULA: small long bone of lower leg behind the tibia.