When did we stop falling over and start having a fall?

What a difference a week can make in one’s life!

One week ago I was getting on a plane from Corfu back to London feeling refreshed and invigorated from time away. I had fallen a few days before and thought I had just sprained my wrist. It was quite sore but nothing unbearable. Five years previously I had broken my shoulder and the pain was intense and constant so I was sure this was just a sprain.

On arriving in London my husband and I went straight to Hyde Park for the Eagles concert, a Christmas present from our children. It was a balmy summer’s evening and the park was full of ageing rockers, like ourselves. We are at that age and stage when everyone looks familiar. My husband adores the Eagles’ music and so we were set for a fabulous evening. What a brilliant way to end our holiday.

I woke on Monday full of energy, still humming Hotel California, when my husband suggested I get my wrist checked out as it didn’t seem to be improving or in ‘husband speak’ I was asking for his help to do a lot of simple tasks. I read once that Prince Charles has a man squeeze his toothpaste onto his brush. It must have been a media joke but right now I could have done with that man.

When did we stop falling over and start having a fall?
AT A&E

So the decision was made and he drove me to A&E and after three hours I exited wearing a cast as it was broken! How I had managed to walk around, swim, drive a car and dance in Hyde Park was a mystery to the bone doctor – perhaps the holiday alcohol consumption was the antidote. However, the whole incident highlighted an interesting ageing point to me. I observed the A&E language from the medics as they kept saying that I had had a fall whilst I kept saying I had fallen over or even just slipped on some slimy rocks.

I was being seen at a similar time to a 12-year-old girl who my doctor kept saying had fallen over whilst playing netball and had also broken her wrist. Meanwhile, my notes read, “she had a fall whilst on holiday.”

When did we stop falling over and start having a fall?

At what age do we move from falling over to having a fall? Having a fall seems to be an age-related affliction that simply can’t be helped.

I was reminded of when my girlfriend fell and broke her hip and had to fight to prove she still had some life left in her and therefore deserved a full hip replacement and not just a half. We need to defy all the ageist assumptions and show that we are not ready to be put out to ‘graze’ for the rest of our days.

Even more annoying my 12-year-old A&E companion was offered a coloured cast and chose blue. I got no such offer and I would have loved a pop of colour on my arm if I am going to be wearing this for a few weeks. Can we change the language in the medical world – some of us still want to have fun and we don’t want to fade into the background.

Having said all of this the NHS looked after me efficiently and swiftly so l have no complaints there. Dr. Freddie had a sense of humour throughout and said it would be 4 – 6 weeks of wearing a cast. I guess 4 weeks for those who have fallen over and 6 weeks for those who have had a fall!

More posts by Annabel can be read here

25 Comments

  1. It comes as no surprise that many doctors regard older people in a different light. Might I suggest that you send this article out more widely. And I’d try the BMJ and the chief medical officer too. It’s an excellent example of just what one has often to deal with in the NHS.

  2. Oh dear Annabelle!
    You could have been describing what happened to me 4 years ago (but in the garden, and not in Corfu)
    And I didn’t attend an Eagles Concert in Hyde Park…
    But it changed my life as I am no longer able to play golf.

    So you have all my sympathy – and I would say that if you are not comfortable in your plaster cast, go back to have it checked. I wish I had….!

    • I am getting terrible pains in my hand so it is being checked on Monday. I am sure the heat is not helping. So sorry you cannot play gold anymore. Hoping I can still play tennis. Ax

  3. I had exactly that experience & made exactly those remarks to the medics & friends….I fell over

  4. When did we stop ‘going into hospital’ and become ‘hospitalised’? When did my ‘white coffee’ become a ‘ regular Americano with cold milk’? When did people start asking to ‘get something’ rather than asking to ‘have something’? Let’s make the changes when they add to the language’s richness, not just to copy the Americans.

  5. I hope your wrist heals quickly and well, Annabel. I too have slipped – and fallen over – a number of times in recent years. I think it’s because I move too fast, but the doctor says maybe it’s because I’m not careful enough! So now I’m under orders …. “Be Careful” and “No More Falls”!! I guess I’ll have to try and slow down a little -;)

  6. That is such bad luck, Annabel. i hope 6 weeks whizzes by. i am sure you are being very well looked after though!

    • I am being spoilt rotten and a couple of weeks on the sofa watching tennis or in the garden enjoying the sun is not a hardship! Ax

  7. Good to hear you were treated well and hope all is well in four weeks.
    I find the language ‘had a fall’ so ageist and i hope your article goes someway to change that

  8. Your article made me wince at how our medical problems are ‘aged’ by medics – so true. I fell off a ladder and broke my wrist and was recommended this https://www.amazon.co.uk/ArmoLine-Breathable-Bandage-Shoulder-immobilizer/dp/B0748NXF97/ref=asc_df_B0748NXF97/?tag=googshopuk-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309912016683&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2457282149620575958&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1007196&hvtargid=pla-430931585959&psc=1 as it is an over shoulder sling rather than ‘around the neck sling – and far comfier.

  9. Oh my goodness this is so true! As a student nurse I well remember thinking that over 60s were ancient! I’m afraid hospital staff can have very judgmental language at times. Now I’m over 60 myself I’d be really miffed if my medical care was ‘trimmed’ in any way because of an ‘it will do’ attitude to my age group.

  10. Really interesting article and I do hope you make a full recovery. A few winters ago when I was 56, I fell on some ice and broke my shoulder vey badly. The young consultant said it was my decision whether I had a plate fitted or not. However the senior consultant said that he was in his sixties and and in his opinion he felt I was too young to live with the restrictions that not having the plate fitted would bring later in life. The issue he felt was that to younger doctors anyone over 55 is old. I had the plate fitted and although it was months of physiotherapy to recover I did make an excellent recovery and still have almost 100% movement in my arm.

    • Scary that it is 55 yrs that is the point when we step into old age. I think the NHS need to review this. Ax

  11. I know exactly how you feel. I was visiting my sister in the UK and I fell over and broke my wrist in four places! One of the nurses at A&E referred to me as an elderly lady – I’m 65 and very fit!

  12. I AM 91 AND STILL DONT FEEL OLD, HOWEVER I REMEMBER WHEN MY MOTHER FELL OVER AND BROKE HER HIP AT 92…..SHE RECOVERED AND WAS STILL ABLE TO WALK BUT WAS MORE CAREFUL !
    AS I AM NOW !!!

    • Good to hear that your mother made a full recovery. I think we should all be taking things a bit more carefully. I certainly am!! Best wishes, Annabel x

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