Many people experience a fall and find themselves uncomfortably trapped on the floor for hours or in some cases days, unable to get up. If you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament, there are a number of things you can do to help increase the chance of either getting yourself off the floor or alerting others you need help.
Getting off the floor
Many times people experience a fall which does not result in any injuries, but then find they are unable to get from the floor. If you do find yourself in such a situation, it is helpful to be aware of ways to rescue yourself if there is nobody around to help. Two fall recovery strategies are described below.
- Basic Fall Recovery Technique: If you are able to do so, roll yourself over onto your stomach, ease yourself up onto your hands and knees, and then try to crawl to the nearest chair, couch, or your bed. We’ll use a “chair” as an example here. Begin by kneeling in front of the chair. Place both hands (or elbows if need be) on the seat. Then, bend the knee of your strongest leg, drawing it upwards, followed by placing your foot flat on the floor. Next, push down through your arms on the seat while using your bent leg to give you leverage to aid in standing up. The basic fall-recovery technique can be viewed in this video.
- MacGyver-Style Techniques: If you are unable to get up using the standard fall recovery technique, then it is time to turn on your MacGyver-style thinking and find a way to use the things around you to aid you in getting up from the floor. See Video: How to Get Up From the Floor MacGyver-style!
Get Someone’s Attention
If you sustain a serious injury during the fall, your primary emphasis should not be on getting back up on your feet because you could worsen the injury. Your primary emphasis should instead be on trying to get someone else’s attention to come help.
Below are some steps you can take to try to alert others you need help.
- If you cannot access a phone to call for help, do your best to scoot yourself closer to a door, or window where people are more likely to hear you call out for help. If you are outside your home, you can try making your way closer to the front of your home or to any place in your yard you believe someone’s more likely to hear you calling out. You can try using the Glute Scoot or Inch Worm technique shown at the end of the video “How to Get Up From the Floor MacGyver-style!” or try rolling (much like you are a rolling pin) to move yourself from one location to another. The method of mobility you choose to use will depend both on your own physical skills and limitations, as well as on whether there was an injury incurred during the fall.
- What time do your neighbors come and go from work? Try to position yourself by a window on the side closest to their home. As soon as you hear their car, bang on the door, wall, or window and call out continuously.
- What time does your mailman usually drop off the mail? If you anticipate the mailman will be coming soon, try to make your way near to the door or window closest to your mailbox, so you are ready to call out to them when they stop by.
- Combine yelling together with banging items to get people’s attention. Use the TV remote, the sole of your shoe or whatever item is available within easy reach to bang against the floor or wall while you are yelling for help.
- A whistle can be a useful aid to get someone’s attention to come help. Consider making it part of your daily routine to wear a small whistle as a pendant or consider storing a whistle in every room of your home, somewhere within easy reach of the floor, so you can access one if needed. A package containing multiple whistles can often be purchased for as little as $10 or less.
Maintain Your Health While Waiting for Help
If you cannot reach a phone and there is nobody nearby to call out to for help, then implement as many of the following strategies as possible.
- Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated while you wait is important. Try to pull yourself near to a bathtub or sink and stay hydrated.
- Stay Warm: If you are pulling yourself to a new location for water or to be closer to a door to call for help, make sure to drag any nearby blankets or pillows with you — if you can. Example: Tuck the end of the blanket into your belt loop or waist band of your pants, so it will arrive at the final destination along with you. That way you’ll be as warm and comfortable as possible while you wait and you’ll only have to muster up the energy to make this trip across the room once.
- Move!: Move as much as possible. One of the worst things you can do is lie in one position for too long because the skin tissue that is pinched between you and the hard floor can cut off the blood supply and thereby the oxygen to those skin cells, resulting in pressure sores. (This is the same effect that happens when you wrap a rubber band tightly around your finger.) When the skin cells begin to break down pressure sores form, which leads to longer hospitalizations and recovery time. Pressure sores can develop in a very short period of time, so roll, turn, and wiggle as much as you are able!
- Uh Oh! I need to pee! If you live alone and you know nobody will be happening by for many hours, then you are going to need to find a way to use the toilet at some point in time. The goal is to try to stay warm — and dry — while you wait for help. If there is a towel, blanket, or pillow nearby, push it down into your underwear when you need to urinate and then remove it and toss it aside.
- Use Your Life Alert Button! As silly as this may sound – don’t forget to use it! Many people reportedly do forget to push it. They never take it off and as such sometimes forget they even have it on. If you have a friend or family member with a life alert pendant or bracelet, periodically ask them, “What would you do if a fall occurs?” as a means to remind them that they have a life alert button on and pushing it is their first and best line of defense.
Good Fall Safety Measures
Taking steps to make your home safer can help you to prevent falls from happening and setting up a check-in plan with friends, family, or your local police department (see below) can help to ensure that if you do fall, you won’t be stuck on the floor for long. Per the wise words of Benjamin Franklin “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
- Remove the common fall hazards from your home (See: Home Safety Tips)
- Ask your local police department if they provide a daily Telephone Check-in Program. Many police departments offer this as a free service. If you did not answer your phone at the daily check-in time, they would send someone to make sure you are OK.
- If your local police department does not offer a telephone check-in program, set up a buddy system with a friend or family member. Example: Ask them to call or text you at a set time each day. If you do not answer or respond, they will know to follow up. That way if you were to experience a fall, someone will be aware and come help you within a maximum time frame of 24 hours. You can even consider setting up a buddy system with two different family members or friends and talking to one in the morning and one at night, so that there is never more than a 12-hour time span that you’d be required to await someone to come help.
- Another alternative of the phone-call buddy system is to tell a neighbor that you will follow a set routine daily in regards to one specific item (E.g. always open the blinds or turn on a light at a set time each day). Inform them they should follow up with you if the routine diverges.
- Is your landline phone currently attached high up on a wall? If so, have someone move it down lower. Store all phones in reaching distance of the floor.
- If you own a cell phone, keep it on you at all times inside a pocket, fanny pack, or passport-style pouch. Alternatively, if you use a walker, it can be stored in a pouch or basket attached to the walker.
- The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home because the floors are often slippery and wet. Bathrooms may also be isolated in the center of the home, which can make it hard for people to hear you if you are calling for help. Make it a habit to ALWAYS bring your cell phone or a portable phone into the bathroom when bathing and place it in a safe reaching distance of your bath or shower.
- Consider purchasing a life alert system, home safety sensor system, or other form of emergency alert system so that you can get help more quickly if a fall does occur. Some emergency alert systems come equipped with fall detection sensors that are set up to alert family or emergency personnel for you, in case you were to pass out during the fall.
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