Falls Awareness Day Is Sept. 22

Anyone Can Fall

September 20, 2016

Falling isn’t something just “elderly” or “sick people” need to be careful about. Sure, we are more vulnerable as we get older or when we are not 100 percent ourselves, but falls can happen to any age at any time.

Ask Molly Burke, RN.  Burke, 41, of Bennezette works on The Rehabilitation Unit at Penn Highlands DuBois. 

Burke was working on the floor with a patient care technician to help a patient get from a wheelchair into a bed.  They used a lift, and after re-positioning the patient, the lift’s straps were laying flat over the bed to the floor. 

As the patient was waiting to talk to people and other patients were requiring care, Burke tried to rush. Her foot and leg got caught up in the straps. As she turned, she tried to get “uncaught.” It didn’t work. “I went straight to the floor,” Burke said. 

The patient was fine, but Burke was not. “I don’t remember anything after I fell,” she said. Her head hit the concrete floor and corner of the wall.

Her first memory is going home with her husband from UPMC Altoona’s trauma center where she was sent after a visit to the PH DuBois Emergency Department. She had a concussion but no skull fractures, she said.

Since her fall on Aug. 26, 2015, she has had headaches ever since, she said. She has had vision problems, chronic migraines, and upper back and neck pain along with numbness to both her arms and hands.

Burke is back to work performing limited duties. She doesn’t trust her memory or concentration skills fully, yet. Her balance comes and goes, she said. She is working toward improvements with the Concussion Clinic at PH DuBois. “I’ve done so much therapy over there…I’m still doing techniques at home,” she said of the physical and speech therapies that are used to help the brain after a concussion.

“I didn’t expect any of this to go on – even the fall,” Burke said. “I’m fairly diligent.” Five years out of nursing school, Burke was feeling comfortable as a RN and had a lot of pride in what she was doing. “I look back now and I’m hopeful that I’ll regain that ability and sense of well-being. It’s been an emotional ride.”

And she feels that she will be a better nurse because of her understanding of falls. “It can happen to anybody, and it has been a life changing event, especially with the trauma that can occur.”

To help you avoid falls, all four Penn Highlands Healthcare hospitals will be offering free education on Falls Awareness Day on Thursday, Sept. 22.

• At PH Brookville, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a Fall Prevention Awareness table will be hosted in the cafeteria.

• At PH Clearfield, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a Fall Prevention Awareness table will be hosted in the cafeteria.

• At PH DuBois, from 8 a.m. to noon, in the atrium at PH DuBois West, there will be a blood pressure screening, “Get Up and Go” screenings from The Rehabilitation Center and PH DuBois Home Health will also display a mock bedroom with home tripping hazards for you to identify. From 9 a.m. to noon, a brown bag review of medications you take will be available with the Penn Highlands Community Pharmacy staff.  

• At PH Elk, from 9-11 a.m. in the lobby of the hospital, free bone density screenings and fall awareness tips will be offered.

This year’s theme is “Ready, Steady, Balance: Prevent Falls in 2016.” 

Education is the most important step to being ready to prevent a fall. Understanding your likeliness of falling can help you prepare for avoiding falls. You can address your fear of falling and do simple things to sustain your strength and balance. Talk to someone at one of our educational tables to learn more.

Being steady means talking with a professional about medications. Some have side effects that could cause balance problems. Be sure to get hearing and vision checkups, and assess your living spaces for hazards, such as cords and bad lighting.  

Be balanced. It takes everyone to cooperate and realize that any age can fall. Talk to your family members about what they can do to stay safe, too.