"Help! I've fallen and no one can hear me…The one thing you must have at all times."
It was a warm Sunday afternoon, Pop had just told me he was going to shower. He had a memorized self-care shower ritual and typically took his time. As the day went on, I continued cleaning, not thinking anything was wrong. Suddenly, I realized too much time had passed when it was two hours beyond his punctual lunchtime.
When I walked into his room, I noticed the bathroom door was ajar without any sound coming through. As I rapidly walked over calling out for a response, I realized something terrible had happened. Pop had fallen in the bathroom right in front of the air conditioning vent that was blasting cold air. His blood sugar had dropped significantly and his lips turned purple with trembling shivers. He was unable to speak from the paralyzing cold, and all he could do was look at me with despair.
Reality check: falls can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime
I wish I could say that this was not a true story, but it is and it happens to thousands of older adults across the world every day. Falls are one of the leading causes of death in older adults because of the fragility and damage it causes. As a Geriatric Kinesiologist for nearly 10 years, I hear about it more often than I’d like. Most of the time I am contacted because someone has just fallen and their loved ones want to make sure it never happens again. Many reasons falls occur are due to general weakness, illness, or an accidental slip, but regardless of the reason, every fall is a serious danger.
The bathroom is one of the most common places for falls among older adults, often with high cases of hip fractures, head injuries, and sometimes even death. There are many preventative measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk of falls such as grab bars and non-slip mats, but what happens when you’re outside in the garden, or walking through your son’s new house? How do you call for help when you don’t have your phone on you, you’re alone, or you’re in a new place and alone? Emergency preparedness is imperative and there’s one life-saving secret that can be applied to everyone.
Sound the alarm!
What do lifeguards, crosswalk guards, and sports coaches all have in common? How do they alert and grab our attention? Yes, you guessed it…a whistle! That high-pitch sound that startles us all yet gets us to pay attention is the tool that can save your life.
Whistles are low-cost and very effective. Placing a whistle in the bathroom, in your kitchen, in the bedroom, and in other common places where you will be able to reach them if a fall occurred is highly suggested. Even better if you are apt to wear it around your neck or carry it in your pocket.
Which one are you?
Let’s think of a worst-case scenario…you’re outside gardening, ready to harvest delicious ripe tomatoes from the planter box. As you lean over, you lose your balance, and down towards the dirt you go. Your daughter is working inside with her window just cracked open for fresh air and she has no idea you are outside. Which scenario would you like to be in?
Scenario 1: You have nothing to alert her with. No phone, no whistle, and your voice is becoming faint. You’re trying to get up, but there is nothing to hoist yourself up on. You get tired and lay there hoping she will come to look for you, eventually.
Scenario 2: You do not have a phone on you, but you do have a whistle around your neck. You cannot get up because you are hurting and scared, but you are able to blow into the whistle to call for attention. The dog starts to bark with the loud sound, and your daughter comes to find you helpless on the ground. First responders arrive and you are safely taken into care.
Why being prepared can bring peace of mind
Oftentimes we think, “that will never happen to me” until it does and we are in shock.
Taking this secret tip and applying it to your life can be far more than life-saving and beneficial. It can bring peace of mind, not only to you but to those closest to you too. Whistles can decrease the chances of not being rescued in time. Especially for individuals who have high-risk conditions, such as diabetes and low blood pressure, time is of the essence.
When Pop was on the floor shivering cold and helpless, a whistle could have alerted me that he needed help. I like to think about the movie Titanic, where Rose gets rescued because she found a whistle and blew on it relentlessly until a rescue boat heard her!
In a nutshell, consider a whistle as your new life-alert system. Let your family and friends know why you’re wearing it and spread the word to others so they can be safe, too. You never know, perhaps one day a whistle may save your life just like it did for Rose.
If you found this article helpful, find more tips on how to maintain your health and safety at https://walkwithpop.com.
About the Author
Mercedes Fernandez is a Geriatric Kinesiologist and is the founder of Walk With Pop. She helps older adults feel included and connected with others through companion walking. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology with an extensive pre-medical background in psychology, anatomy, and nutrition. She is a certified senior fitness instructor and authorized CPR/First Aid responder under the American Red Cross. Along with her professional experience, Mercedes was also her grandfather's primary caregiver, enriching her personal experience of senior health care. Her deeply rooted passion to serve older adults began from an early age where she played piano at nursing homes at the age of 8. Today, Mercedes continues to have deep care and compassion for older adults and advocates for adequate senior health care.