Attitude and aging gratefully

Life After a FallLife has sort of been on hold for my husband and me since early May when his femur broke and he had to have surgery. The surgery went well and thanks to great care at Alta Vista Regional Hospital and Vida Encantada, he came home from rehab a week earlier than anticipated. For the first two weeks, we scooted along quite well… until I got a sacral fracture (result of osteoporosis and overdoing it gardening), that really sent us topsy turvy. Since then we’ve both been on walkers and confined to the house, or so we believed because neither of us was confident enough to get behind the wheel.

The experience has given us a whole new appreciation for the ability to drive. We have relied on – and thank you very much nephew Seth and great-nephew Carter, Tom Trigg and Mary Schipper, and Karyl Lyne – as well as Lydia Palomino, who worked us into her busy schedule – for getting us to and from appointments and the store (and sometimes Charlie’s!).

We are on the mend, but I want to especially thank my long-time friend Kathy Allen, whose phone call this week helped me see how much of our isolation came as much from self-inflicted and unfounded fears as it did from our actual afflictions. She didn’t tell me that, but my whining about my plight – which resonated long after the conversation was over, did. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it is that as you age, fear sneaks in where you least expect it.

Fear of falling is a real thing, especially as you get older. Fear of falling in older folks is greater than that related to robbery, financial stress, or health problems, according to an article on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Click here to read the full article.

Julie Loebach Wetherell, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, writes that about ten percent of older adults report excessive fear, and at least three percent avoid leaving their homes or yards. That may not seem like much, but when you consider that the aging population is the fastest growing demographic globally and that by 2050, two billion adults older than sixty-five will be living on this planet, the percentages become more significant.

“Most people who fear falling avoid some physical activities. This fear is a better predictor of decreased physical activity than age, perceived health, number of prescription medications, gender, or history of falls,” Wetherell writes. She notes that fear of falling and less physical activity lead to disability, including decreased capacity to perform daily living activities such as bathing and shopping.

Paradoxically, the fear of falling increases the risk of falls. It also increases the risk of having to enter a health care facility and the loss of independence. Those who had excessive fear but no falls over a two-year period increased their risk of entering a nursing home five-fold relative to those with low fear. Of older adults in one scientific study, fifty-six percent with high levels of fear fell again within the following year, while only thirty-seven percent of those without fear did. – Julie Loebach Wetherell

I confess that fear of falling and making my back injury worse has contributed to our isolation, which, by the way, also leads to feeling discouraged, even depressed. These are not characteristics in my essential make up. Quite the contrary. I always think life will get better, every obstacle can be overcome, and bloom where your planted. I’ve scarcely written a word in the last six weeks that wasn’t related to my daily prayer journal and devotional journal. I dropped out of Pasateimpo Art Academy, simply because I had neither the energy nor the time (or physical ability), to conduct the writing classes I had signed up to do.

I realized after my whine-fest with Kathy, the problem wasn’t my circumstances; the problem was my attitude, which was being shaped by my fears.

No more. Time to get back to normal. Ordinary caution makes sense; hiding behind anxiety does not.

Onward and upward.

We met Kathy and Fred for coffee at Charlie’s today. I drove.

Photo: Life after a fall.