Stories from older adults across Wisconsin about their experience with falls.
Theresa (77 years old)
I was driving home after doing my regular jobs and I realized that I was supposed to get a tetanus shot. So, I pull into the parking lot and I went to walk on the sidewalk which was on the other side of the road. When I was almost close to getting across the street to get to where the health center is located, that’s when I fell and I went down hard. It was snowy, there was ice around and other stuff. They had salted very hard. And somehow, I’ve thought that I fell on those little salt balls. Because I went down really hard. There was nothing I could do to stop myself it seemed. Automatically, my arm was going down. When I got up, I knew I had gone down with my hand because it was sore in my palm. So I hit that hard and it was scraped a little from the salt. I had all these little spots on my forehead. I got up, continued into the building, and went to the health department. I appreciated my good fortune that a nurse was there to help me and check me over. I wasn’t bleeding seriously but bleeding a little on the forehead. I didn’t seem to have any other repercussions. It was serious. Because I could hear the crunch when my forehead hit the ground. The nurse kept me for an hour or two to make sure I was OK to leave. So I [went] home and went on with whatever I was doing but as evening came through, I had all these very heavy bruise marks, where the blood was, starting to [look like] big purple splotches on my skin. I didn’t go to the emergency room to get X-rays on my head and maybe I should have. I guess I thought I was doing everything right. I caught myself, you know. Thank heavens that I have done exercise classes for probably 14 years. But the thing I can say is, I didn’t expect to fall, and there wasn’t much time to think what to do when I was going down. And I just went down, but I was able to just get up also.
Hear from Sheila (76 years old), Sauk County, WI, who has had multiple falls and has benefitted from the Stepping On falls prevention program.
Jim (65 years) and Sue (69 years)
Vilas County, WI
Sue’s dad had a history of falling and had a series of falls before he passed away. Sue’s brother called one day and said that dad had fallen, and they took him to the hospital. They found that he had cracked his collarbone, broken 4 ribs, and cracked his pelvis and when they did x-rays, they found evidence of a previous hip fracture that we didn’t know about. We knew dad couldn’t come home so he went to a rehab center. After he left the rehab center, Jim quit his job to stay with him full-time so he could still live at home, and he did that for about three months. We had gotten him a medical alert button, but he never wore it. After Jim had left and my dad was on his own again, he got stuck in the bathtub because he had fallen backwards. Because he never wore his medical alert button, my brother didn’t find him until about six hours later.
Another time he fell was after he had had a stroke. Sue was staying with him because he checked himself out of rehab. And at four o’clock in the morning, she heard him calling out and she went to the living room and couldn’t find him. And she’s looking and said “Dad, where are you?” and realized he’s on the floor wedged in between the wall and the recliner. She had no idea how he got there and had to call her brother because she couldn’t get him up. So, it was back to the rehab center and then we got him into a really nice nursing home. And shortly after that, he passed away.
We took the Stepping On class for preventative measures for ourselves. The class made us so much more aware of our surroundings, both outside and inside, things you could do to improve your balance, take your time and not rush things, and learn about hazards you don’t always think about. It highlighted the issues that you start to realize you don’t want to take for granted because in that split second, you could fall.
As a tourist, I was in an unfamiliar city soon after lunch. Looking at the map while walking, I slipped on the slightly slanted curb, falling straight down. Fortunately, I was already in touch with my balance and able to slow my fall with my right hand. I suffered some bruising internally around my left rib cage but no more. I feel fortunate to have participated in balance practice with Ballroom Basics for Balance in Madison, WI.
Morris (76 years old)
Dane County, WI
Roland (Shawano, WI) knew it was important to take care of himself, after having cared for others for so many years. Roland took the Stepping On falls prevention class and was so passionate about it that he become a peer facilitator of the program from 2018 until 2020. He knew it was important to stay active as he aged. Roland passed away on August 2, 2022. He is greatly missed.
I have had 2 falls since moving to Stevens Point 6 months ago. My most recent fall took place in the kitchen. I feed my 2 cats there, and since they are princesses, they have clear, crystal food dishes. Since they are clear, it is hard to see them, and I actually stepped on one, slid, and fell. I was home alone at the time. I did not hurt myself (beyond bruises) but did get the “wind” knocked out of me for a short while. My big problem is that since my 2 knee replacements, I have been unable to get up off the floor by myself. I worked on that during physical therapy but was always unsuccessful. I found myself on the floor, unable to reach my phone, and my daughter was out of town too. I was finally able to scoot myself out of the kitchen and into my grandkids’ playroom, where there is carpeting, soft pillows and a sofa. My physical therapist had told me to get onto my knees, and I was able to tolerate that when I pulled a cushion over near the sofa to kneel on. From there I was able to pull myself up onto the sofa and stand up. It took about 30 minutes, and I was able to go on with my day, thrilled that I finally, for the 1st time, was able to get up off the floor by myself! But I was also certainly humbled over the whole experience. I credit exercise classes I take at the senior center for building my strength and flexibility. I hate to think how long I could have been stranded on the floor. And now, my two princess cats eat out of bright pink, highly visible dishes!
Leslie (70 years old)
Stevens Point, WI