Preparing for the Fall

A 95 year old man from the Twin Cities falls at least five times a day. He does it on purpose.

“It’s part of my morning routine,” Elliott Royce said in a recent interview with the Star Tribune. “Just like shaving and brushing my teeth. I pull my air mattress out of the closet and practice safe falls.”

Royce estimates that he has fallen at least 15,000 times in the past ten years, mostly for practice, and seven times for real. While one typically has little time to react in a fall, Royce believes his practice falls have helped him learn to do it correctly by instinct to avoid injury.

“Once you start to fall, you don’t have time to think about what to do,” he said. “You’re going to have about one second to figure it out, so you better have some plans.”

Royce took his strategy from the teaching of gymnastic coaches. One of the first things a fledgling gymnast learns is how to fall.

As you fall, Royce says, bend your knees in the direction of the fall, twist at the waist, and turn your shoulders away from the fall. That way, the impact spreads out the entire length of your leg, thigh and pelvis. When you hit the ground, roll to further disperse the force of the fall.

Royce practices this strategy every day by standing next to his air mattress and falling onto it. His strategy seems to work well for him. It may work for many others as well, but it’s not for everyone. Royce has been athletic all his life. He is very active for his age, bouncing on a trampoline three times a week.

Whether one practices falling or not, having a personal emergency response system (PERS) is also a great strategy. These devices, also known as pendant systems, provide access to communication in case the wearer has difficulty getting to a phone for help. Such a device can provide a sense of security in case of a fall or any other health incident or emergency.

“There are many reasons why someone might use their PERS to call for help,” says Sara Hage, PioneerLink’s program coordinator. “It could be chest pain, dizziness, trouble breathing, really anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable or as if something’s not right. In a moment like that, people often say they would never have been able to get to a phone and dial it.”

There are many PERS systems and providers around the country. Technology has evolved significantly in this area, so the various systems now offer different features compared to those we have become accustomed to seeing in television ads over the years.

With a PERS system, each user has a unique personal profile built when they first sign up for service. The user chooses how the operator will handle a call for assistance in various situations. The profile will list contact information for family members, a neighbor, and local emergency services. Users may list any chronic conditions that could be relevant. When the user presses their help button, the operator instantly sees the profile on a computer screen so they have as much information as possible to assist the user and connect to the appropriate contacts for the situation.

Locally, PioneerLink provides three distinct PERS systems: one is connected to a home’s traditional landline phone, one is home-based yet uses a cellular connection in place of a landline, and one is a compact mobile device that can go with the user wherever she or he goes. Each of the PioneerLink PERS systems can be equipped with automatic fall detection technology. This option is especially important in case a wearer becomes incapacitated in the event of a fall or other health emergency.

Statistics have shown that the length of time someone remains on the floor or ground after a fall can affect the chances of a full recovery from any resulting injuries. In some cases, the time waiting for help can be more physically detrimental than the fall itself.

More information about PioneerLink PERS systems is available by calling 218-998-2628 or by visiting www.pioneercare.org.

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