Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When a fall becomes fatal...

I’m not really one for sharing too much about life’s most personal moments on public platforms such as blogs and FB. But there are times when the need to share your message becomes greater than the medium used to share it. And I wish for the message at the end of this post to reach as many people as possible.

I lost my dadi in October last year. To try and express my grief in any words would be a euphemism. Let’s just say that my earliest memories of my life revolve around her and noone else – be it sleeping to her stories or her making aloo poori for me when I didn’t want to eat my veggies. Dadi always said that since she had only two sons, she got a daughter in me and always insisted that she would be the one to do my kanyadaan.

Wedding day: May 14, 2011. Last picture I have with dadi
Unfortunately, a few weeks before my wedding, in May last year, she fell down and suffered an injury to her hip. For days, she didn’t realize how severe it was nor did any of us. She attended the wedding in a wheelchair. I moved to the US in July and hoped that her fracture would heal soon

A few weeks later, she had another fall. This time, it was worse. She needed hip surgery and complete bedrest for a few months. Again we thought she would be back on her feet in some time. Unfortunately she never did. The fear of falling made her not leave her bed for months after her surgery. She started developing bedsores and blood clots. Having been overweight and a diabetic for years, did not help. Doctors started telling us that if she didn’t start walking again, it could be really bad for her.  

Now this is the point I wish for everyone to understand –
How many of us really fathom that a simple fall injury can be fatal to life? That is perhaps the same mistake we made. Despite the warnings, we didn’t think that dadi not moving out of her bed would lead up to what did. We did try everything that we could. Coaxing, requesting, pleading, getting angry, everything to try and make her stand up on her feet. Everyone from mom to relatives to the doctors to me over skype. Nothing worked. Around the same time, grand-dad had taken severely ill. I was told to come down as soon as possible. November 8th, I was supposed to reach India.

October 31st, Dadi passed away. Suddenly. Shockingly. The last I remember is speaking to her on the 29th when she said very little. As we realized later, she was the only one who realized that she didn't have long to live. The cause and the process of her demise is something I struggled to understand and come to terms with, for days after that. I just could not fathom the fact that dadi lost her life simply because she was bed-ridden for 4 months. This is when I started reading up online and gathered some facts. As I later found out, falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. The figures are APPALLING!

 -  about one third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year, at 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually. 
- One of every four seniors over 60 who have a fall, die within one year.
 Hip fractures are the most common serious injury. More than 24 percent of all people suffering a hip fracture die within a year of falling, and another 50 percent never return to their prior level of mobility and independence. 
About one third of the elder population over the age of 65 falls each year, and the risk of falls increases proportionately with age. At 80 years, over half of seniors fall annually. 
Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again.
- 53% of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall within six months.

It seems ludicrous to think that the only thing needed to reduce these alarming statistics is to avoid injury by fall and yet, we have failed to do what it takes to be there. Everyone has been following the conventional wisdom that we have held on to for ages. As we grow older, we feel that we should follow the advice of “taking it easy”. However, that is exactly what we should not be doing. The lack of exercise and decreased activity leads to weakness and an increased chance of falling.

I don’t really want to give a sermon, especially when I do nothing to lead a more active lifestyle myself. But for those of you reading this - the point is that guys if you have elders at home – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, anyone. Please, PLEASE do not think of a ‘fall’ as harmless. Any fall. Get them examined. And moreover, get them to remain active. The older they get, the more. Don’t encourage them to put their feet up and relax. You might be doing it for their good but it really is no good for them. Yoga, a short walk, just doing chores around the house. Anything. But make sure they are on their feet, atleast for some time during the day. And make sure you never lose someone to something that with a little more information and awareness could have been prevented.

A few days before the wedding