There are two major publications for elders to assist their life in America. One is done by AARP and in recent years the publication has become a catalogue of merchandise offered by AARP including various types of insurance. Harvard Medical School publishes advice in the form of health assistance. Unfortunately, it publishes just too many items, sometimes three a day, and the massive flow of information is difficult for elders to manage.
Our blog, Companion to Aging, goes nationwide, and it has been concentrating on subjects needed by elders for their day-to-day living. It is catalogued according to subject numbers and titles. Today, just to demonstrate what we mean, we will discuss how to deal with going to the bathroom in the middle of night.
The reason why this subject is important is as follows:
About 85 percent of all falls that occur in the home happen between the bedroom and bathroom and in the middle of night. So, we have listed the steps to prevent a fall and shown four steps in the graphic accompanying this column.
First, the room, your bedroom, corridor if any, and the bathroom must be lit by a night light at all times. This is very important. Many people do not like to sleep in a room that is partially lit through the night. But now it is something you need to get used to. This is a very important condition. To help avoid a very serious accident and potentially hospitalization. Electricity, especially when LED lamps are used, is very inexpensive and effective.
Step 1: When you wake up and want to go to the bathroom, the first step is to sit on the edge of your bed, stay still and count up to 30. During this period, your mind will become alert and you will also begin to see better under the illumination.
Step 2: Then you should slowly stand up. Holding on to the head of the bed or some other object you can rely on and count to 30 again, but do not start walking.
Step 3: Now you can begin to walk toward the bathroom. Walk slowly and do not shuffle your feet. Raise your feet up and walk in a stomping style to avoid your feet catching on some uneven object or even a dog or cat toy. These things can cause your fall.
Step 4: Once inside the bathroom, either you stand up and do your business, or sit on the latrine and finish your business. Do not hurry. Take your time. Go slowly.
Step 5: Now, start walking back to bed. Use the same style of walking. Raise your feet and stomp. Do not shuffle.
Step 6: Do not shut off the night light, PERIOD! The night illumination goes on all through the night.
The steps written above will reduce the possibility of you falling significantly. But the process needs to be followed judiciously as though you just learned it. Day in day out, or night in night out, the steps MUST be followed. You might think this is too complex with too many steps, and you’d like to take a shortcut. Don’t. Because the life you save may be your own. You may think nobody gets hurt by going to the bathroom in the middle of night, well, you should see the statistics of people ending up in the hospital. I am sure some deaths might have resulted by falling in the middle of night when trying to go to the bathroom.
The reason you need to take the time and count 30 seconds twice before you start the journey to the bathroom is because your balance is quite impaired when you wake up from bed and stand up quickly. The balance management by your brain and the muscle system will slowly return to normal after a few minutes maximum.
The reason why we insist on your following the stepwise procedure above is because the area between your bedroom and the bathroom is the only area in your home where detection of your fall by the conventional detection methods is not easily accomplished. There are talk-activated communication devices one can wear around your neck. And you could call the central station when you fall for help. But, roughly 50 percent of people who fall are passed out and unable to call anyone. Especially when one is going to the bathroom in the middle of night, chances are you do not carry the device around your neck. Also, even if you did, if you pass out from falling, then you would have to wait potentially a long while until help would arrive.
In the emergency assistance field, there is a saying “Golden Hour.” This means if the help could get to the fallen person within one hour after his or her fall, chances are the patient could be treated without ending up with serious health issues. If the help arrives at a much later time, then the prognosis could be deadly. I know of an incident when the mother of my friend fell and was discovered about six hours later by chance. Her injury forced her to stay in a hospital for a month. This was caused by the fact that she had no night light in her bedroom and bathroom areas.
Having the necessary night lights lit at all times is a very inexpensive proposition in life. Saving money by eliminating the night lights is no way to increase your safety and security.
This Companion to Aging column appears each week in the Seacoast Sunday features section. You can read earlier installments at www.seacoastonline.com. Please send your thoughts about aging to Sasano@umelink.com, Sam Asano, P.O. Box 26, New Castle, NH 03854 or (cell) 781-389-2356 or email Sam at email@example.com.