Last night I fell again. I broke my new glasses and bruised my ribcage. The glasses are already repaired and the rib cage is going to be OK. The important part is that I fall at least three times a year which is a lot. My thesis advisor died in a fall in 2020. Falling is dangerous and I live alone (and like it). I happened to be on the phone when I fell talking to the same friend in whose house I fell last summer when I injured my shoulder.
Of course I consulted Dr. Google who gave me a lot of possible causes but the one that seemed most likely was that getting older often results in people falling. I read some daunting statistics (falls after age 60 increase 30% and after 80 some incredible number I can’t remember). I don’t have vertigo or dizziness. It’s a balance thing. I have one leg 1/2 (1 cm) shorter than the other and a couple of prosthetic hips so, right there, I’m a hazard to myself. I also wear glasses which means that little space between the bottom of my glasses and my cheek is uncorrected. Add to that, I’ve always been kind of clumsy. I could run narrow trails in mountains without falling, but walking on the flat sidewalk could be hazardous.
I learned a lot today. I learned that as we age, our reflexes are slower and that can lead to falling. Something we might “catch” and merely stumble at 30 will pull us down at 70. That’s why most elder falls are not “caused” by anything like a carpet, rug, dog. curb, etc. We’re not “tripped up” in the normal sense. It’s true. I do not fall over anything. My fall in August was on a flat floor. I was wearing walking shoes and basically standing still.
This morning a doctor friend of mine told me about a program that’s designed to help people with this. It’s called Nymbl. I signed up and did my first “class.” It’s an app that trains the mind and body to work together based on the argument that NOT falling when a person is older is a cognitive not reflexive function. So, we have to learn. I’ve done the first day of training.
It’s very interesting. I got an exercise and a mental test sort of like the Medicare brain test thing Trump aced so brilliantly. First I did the physical exercise. Then the mental test, and then I did the two together. I got it. It’s literally training the brain to pay attention in such a way that no young person needs to.
Nymbl’s Dual-Tasking Approach
- There are two elements to balance, cognitive and physical –While both are important, Nymbl’s technology focuses on the cognitive element of balance
- The cognitive element of balance allows older adults to recognize they are falling and through practice, formulate a “plan” on how to catch themselves in an instant – known as their balance reflex
- As people age, their balance reflex starts to decline, meaning their balance is now an executive function, they have to actively think about it
- Nymbl retrains a person’s reflexive balance, combining cognitive challenges with simple functional movements together – An older adult’s brain is focused on the cognitive challenge which means their reflex has to control their body and balance. (from Nymbl website)
I saw exactly WHY I might not “remember” how to run. My body doesn’t remember; it doesn’t have that capability that it had forever. Possibly, also, it no longer has the reflexive capability of automatically taking off like a rocket, maybe diminished also by the fears that result from hip arthritis. There’s also something in this program about fear. I get that, too. I see what this app is attempting which is increasing competence. Fear of falling is terrible, and I have it. I am mostly alone. My dogs aren’t going to call for help if I need it. I don’t want to stop living on my own. That’s the point, the desperate reality of this situation.
The Truth About Falls
- Statistics show that 1 of 3 older adults will have a fall event in any given year
- 1 in 6 of falls will require an Emergency Room visit
- Half of ER visits due to falls will result in a hospitalization
- Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for older adults. (Nymbl website)
It’s a 90 day program. We’ll see how it goes…