Many people experience a fall and find themselves uncomfortably trapped on the floor for hours, and 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
If you are not injured, proceed to try one of the following methods for getting off the floor:
- Basic Fall Recovery Technique: If you are able, roll yourself over onto your stomach, ease yourself up onto your hands and knees, and try to crawl to the nearest chair. While kneeling in front of the chair, place both hands on the seat, then bend the knee of your strongest leg and place the foot on the floor; finish by pushing yourself up using your strongest leg and your arms, then turn and sit on the chair.
- 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 have sustained a back, hip or other serious injury, your emphasis should not be on getting up on your feet because you could worsen the injury or potentially fall again due to the underlying problem (i.e broken hip), but instead your focus should be on getting someone’s attention to come help. Below are some steps you can take to try to alert others your need help.
- If you can’t reach the phone to call for help, try scooting yourself closer to a door or window where people are more likely to hear you call out.
- Try a combination of yelling and banging. Grab hold of something hard (E.g. a TV remote) and bang it against the floor or wall.
- What time do your neighbors go to, or get home from, work? Try to position yourself by a window on the side closest to their home and as soon as you hear their car, bang on the window and call out continuously.
- What time does your mailman usually drop off the mail? Try to make your way near to the door, so you are ready to call out when he or she comes by.
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 items as possible.
- Try to pull yourself over to a bathtub or sink and stay hydrated.
- 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 so you’ll be warm and comfortable while you wait and so you’ll only have to muster up the energy to make this trip across the room once.
- 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. (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!
- 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 as warm and dry as you possible can while you wait for help. If there is a towel, blanket, or pillow nearby you can push it down into your underwear when you need to urinate and then remove it and toss it aside.
- Last, but not least. If you have a 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 they would do if a fall occurs to remind them that 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 buddy system with friends and family (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)
- If you live alone, set up a buddy system with a friend or family member so they call or text you, or you call or text them, at a fixed time every day. That way if you do experience a fall, someone will be aware and come help you within a maximum time frame of 24 hours. You can consider setting up a buddy system with two different people and talking to one in the morning and one at night so that there is a maximum 12-hour time span in which you may need to wait to get help.
- An alternative version of the buddy system is to tell a neighbor that you will follow a set routine 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.
- If one of your phones currently resides high on a wall, have someone move it down. Store all phones in reaching distance of the floor.
- If you own a cell phone, carry it with you in a pocket at all times.
- Always bring your cell phone or a portable phone into the bathroom when bathing and place it in reaching distance of the shower area. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home due to slippery surfaces. It is also often isolated in the center of the home, which can make it hard for people to hear you if you are calling for help.
- 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.
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