Marilyn Randall Stout broke her leg while doing yard work and had custom built doors built into her home so her wheelchair would fit.

It happens in an instant. An accidental fall can cause anything from a broken bone to traumatic brain injury.

Marilyn Randall Stout, 75, retired from a government job, remembered falling in 1993 because of morning dew on the grass in her yard.

“It was at my previous house near Civitan Park, while my husband and son were still asleep,” she said. “I had gone outside, and when I was coming back, I slipped and heard it go ‘crunch.’”

Stout dragged herself to her car and honked the horn. Her son stuck his head out an upstairs window. When Stout asked him to come downstairs and help her, he thought she was asking for help with yard work, so he took a shower first.

Her son did get her to the hospital when he finally came outside. It was while in a wheelchair during recovery that she noticed the doors in her home were too narrow. She insisted on something better when she bought her current house.

“I told them I would only buy it if they widened this door into the bathroom from the master bedroom,” she said. “It’s 30 inches wide, compared to other doors in the house that are 24 inches.”

Stout also took it on herself to install rails (grab bars) and rubber no-slip mats in the bathroom. She encourages others to add similar features.

“If I can do it, other people can do it,” she said.

Although the elderly are often at increased risk for a fall, anyone who accidentally falls can suffer a major injury.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, falls and motor vehicle injuries cause most traumatic brain injuries. Damage to the brain may interrupt connections within the brain, affecting how a person thinks, learns, works and carries on daily activities.

People who survive a serious traumatic brain injury may experience physical, sensory, cognitive, social, behavioral or other limitations that require long-term rehabilitative and community services.

Pat Berry, a registered nurse and team leader at Muskogee Regional Medical Center Home Health, said she and her staff help people avoid falls.

“Any time we do a home health evaluation, we also do a safety evaluation,” she said. “We assess their home and look for things they might trip over. If there are loose rugs, we suggest they remove or tape those down. We also suggest that they not keep electrical cords stretched across the room.”

Berry said the home health staff sometimes recommend lifestyle changes.

“We work with a lot of elderly people who may be reluctant to use their walkers because they want to be independent,” she said. “They may walk hanging onto furniture or the walls. We stress the importance of using the walker. Proper lighting is a must, especially near the bathroom.”

The home health staff will also check bathrooms for slippery surfaces, and suggest the use of non-slip mats in the tub or shower. They often advise that grab bars be installed.

Berry said risks from falls include: broken bones, head injuries, skin tears, and wounds.

“It is very difficult for the elderly to recoup,” she said. “It can be even worse if they have osteoporosis, and a lot of people don’t know they have it. We also stress routine eye checks in case they can’t see properly.”

People at risk for a fall my need an emergency response system that features a button which hangs from around the neck, Berry said. The user can press the button to summon help.

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