Chapter One

It’s so cliche.

No matter how up to date we are on the statistics of how our life might end, we never truly believe it will happen to us. About 36 million older adults fall each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury. One out of every five falls causes an injury, such as broken bones or a head injury according to the CDC. But those things happen to other people.

My Mom is 84 and lives independently in Mesa, AZ, with two yappy geriatric dogs. I tried to get her to live closer to me nearly a decade ago, and she lived briefly in Wenatchee which is about a 3 hour drive but on the eastern (aka drier) side of Washington state. But her nomad leanings kicked in after a year and off she went to upstate New York for a spell, then to Florida, and finally she landed in the desert. The Mesa arrangement was a smallish retirement apartment, with a meal a day and some common areas for games and dining. It became a bit of an isolation cell with the onset of COVID-19, with her daily meal brought to her room and me managing regularly groceries and basics delivered from Walmart and Amazon.

Then I got the phone call.

My Mom had fallen while trying to pick up after her dog and had to be taken by ambulance to the ER. Of course I didn’t know which ER so I had to wait. And wait. About 5 hours later she called me from home, obviously in pain. X-rays had confirmed a broken shoulder – we wouldn’t know how bad it was until she saw an orthopedist at the end of the week. In the meantime my stoic mother would manage her discomfort with Tylenol and a sling; she had refused any narcotic.

The orthopedic surgeon confirmed the diagnosis with an awful caveat – the shoulder was misaligned. After several days of round robin phone calls – me and the doc, me and my mom, doc and mom ad nauseum – it was decided that due to her age and other health issues she was a poor candidate for shoulder replacement. The surgeon felt that there was little to be gained. My Mom would most likely never raise her left arm above her shoulder again. The blessing was that she is right hand dominant. She would manage.

She was home and gearing up to start physical therapy.

And then I got another phone call.

#endoflife #fallrisk #mystory

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