Living Well, Dying Well

Mary Friedel-Hunt

In light of a recent fall, I am now serious about the facts of aging. I am sure I am not alone. This column is really addressing you or your families who are faced with the inevitable vulnerabilities that accompany aging. The 80s, I am learning, are unique. Many friends feel the same as we find ourselves using words like vulnerable, fragile, falling, less energy, letting go of certain activities, needing more assistance — even as we remain very active and involved in life. 

I have been healthy all of my life. I have never spent a night in a hospital, never had any major surgeries, and frankly seldom visited a physician’s office. Something changed when the ninth decade arrived. I do feel more vulnerable and fragile. I do tire more easily. I do need more help with things I never gave a thought to. Many of you know about this.

I have been healthy all of my life. I have never spent a night in a hospital, never had any major surgeries … Something changed when the ninth decade arrived.

I have laughed, as many have, over the years about the ads for fall detection devices. “Help, help, I’ve fallen … ” has, however, lost its humor and become a serious concern. In May, I fell at close to midnight. Alone now, it was frightening especially when it resulted in a concussion. Thankfully, I have a friend I felt free to call at that hour and, as I shook from the trauma, she listened and stayed on the phone with me until I calmed down. I have fallen before, even as recent as March, but never have I hit my head. Never had I shaken. Never have I fallen alone in the night. That fall, from which I am still recovering, got my attention and I find myself moving with far more caution. 

I urge you, especially if you live alone, to have on your phone a few names of friends you can call anytime day or night to notify that you have fallen or are sick. I use an Apple watch (rather than the device that hangs around the neck) because it has fall detection and it worked that night. It might be time for you to consider a fall detection device and also keep a list of your medications where emergency folks can easily find it should you need to call 911 or have someone else call for you. Make a pact with someone if you are alone. I have a friend who I know will see that Brinkley, my four-legged wild child, is taken care of should I end up in the hospital (or worse) unexpectedly. Walking in the dark and sleeping with no lights on has to become something of the past. Falls are real. They happen in an instant. 

Many of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. I did not take the risk of falling seriously even after a few falls over the last decade. Denial got in my way. “I am not old, I will not fall” is not true. 

Mary Friedel-Hunt has retired after 50 years of practice as a licensed clinical social worker and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfhunt44@gmail.com or P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588.