Contributed by Major Mike Dryden, USAR Retired
You could be close to losing your independence.
My column has been AWOL for the last couple of issues, and I apologize. I became one of the “walking wounded” in early June after a fall which broke my right arm. Despite having an extensive workplace safety enforcement background, I willfully and stupidly violated the three points of contact rule by not using the hand rails. My fall broke my right arm and rendered me incapable of independent living for several weeks.
This article isn’t about my injury which is healing, and I expect to be at full throttle by Christmas. Meanwhile, I am learning the need to plan for the unstoppable march of the diminishing abilities treadmill we all are on after a certain age. I am not complaining since the alternative is not pleasant and well, terminal. I have compiled some bullet points during my recovery that I would like to share.
First, mobility devices are available almost everywhere at reasonable prices. The time to pick them up at thrift stores, yard sales and from friends is before you need them. Your attitude during the first week of your recovery will not be conducive to creative thoughts (unless you count new and better ways of using profane language when you forget your arm is broken). My first five days of recovery were spent at the JBER’s 673rd MSU wing. Three hots and cot with nurses servicing my every need was wonderful. However, I must confess having a self-administered morphine supply enhanced my mood.
Ask for help and pay it forward. When you see somebody struggling in the parking lot, offer to help them. Ask an older adult if you can return their shopping cart to the store or cart pen. This small gesture says a great deal about your upbringing. Don’t bring shame on your mamma by being a selfish little pill. She is still watching, you know. Remember, it ain’t all about you, princess!
Check out senior centers and church loan closets for equipment and services. Most of these agencies are not government operations which mean less red tape. Join your local senior center and volunteer your time. What goes around, comes around. The same goes for your neighbors. When you are lying prostate and injured in your front yard may not the best time to introduce yourself to the neighborhood, but any port in a storm. I was somewhat surprised by the volume of support I had at home. I live alone in a condo complex. The neighbors are friendly and couldn’t do enough in my time of need.
I once asked a friend in the landscape nursery business, when was the best time to plant a fruit tree. Without missing a beat, he said,”Five years ago.” Then he asked me when was the second best time to plant a fruit tree. I wasn’t about to bite on that one, having just been adroitly castigated. He said the next best time to plant a fruit tree is today. Whether you are talking about a pear tree, a retirement plan or making some new friends, the process is the same. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Finally, if you don’t already know this, then sit down. You don’t heal as quickly and completely as you once did. Yes, this is a shocker but the older you are, the longer the recovery time. I am sanguine that most of us in Alaska spent the winter months planning in detail what we are going to accomplish after breakup. I had many plans for each day this summer, but my plans will have to wait until next year.
My annual reminder why some jobs should remain the providence of younger professionals will also have to wait. I normally rent a piece of heavy equipment and move dirt around on Far North Fubar Farm. The cost is less than a couple of payments on a new ATV and much more fun. I hope my herd of free-range moose and black bears will understand. This season, that D3 Cat dealer will have to wonder where this old grey-headed fool is. “Wait until next year.” was the most used phrase fans of my college football team most used. Therefore, I have adopted that phrase for my injured reserve status season. It looks like I will be fishing at Freddy’s for silvers this month.
In conclusion, I hope I have shed some light on the ramifications of fall injuries and some methods to mitigate the damage. My purpose was to ignite the thought process in the event of a loss of mobility injury. Learn, before the injury, methods to eliminate barriers in your house. Having a comfortable chair or couch on the ground level is important. Rails on your outside steps need to be installed. Grab bars in your restroom, and a chair in the shower is a necessity. Brainstorm with your family and friends to formulate a game plan now.
Remember, the best time to plant a fruit tree was five years ago. The second best time is today.
Have a great month and act your age.