Barely six months after she was discharged from her almost three month-stay at the hospital, my 93 year old grandmother is back there with a broken hip again, this time on her right side. The fall which she sustained this time, right in front of my eyes, other than the fractured hip, also resulted in a dislocated shoulder and a fractured wrist.
Although I was present, I didn’t see her fall. All I heard was a slight shout and there she was on her side on the floor, her light-framed aluminium walking support lay on one side. We rushed towards her. She was trembling, either from fright or from muscle fatigue. She is literally skin and bones, very frail from lack of muscles. After checking for broken bones, we carried her to a wheelchair. She complained that she couldn’t raise her right arm. My husband, Mike, a medic during his NS, felt she dislocated a shoulder. Grandma insisted we telephone a sinseh to set her arm back, but after a discussion, we decided to call for an ambulance and send her to A&E. But not before she ate her dinner. We were relieved at her hearty appetite and was assured by the paramedics that they too thought she only suffered a dislocated shoulder as any movement in a fractured limp would be extremely painful. The X-ray proved us all wrong.
That night, the image of her on the ground, swirled in my mind as I tried to sleep. There were many ifs. If we’ve not visited… If I’d not asked her to dress for a photo with my sister’s family visiting from Germany… If the floor mat was not there… If someone had been beside her then…
Guilt and helplessness clinch and tighten my heart, causing it to skip a few beats every time I recall her shout and the image, even now as I’m typing this.
In 2015, the Straits Times reported that ‘Every 32 minutes, an elderly person turns up at a public hospital emergency department because of an injury from a fall. Each month, about 100 seniors find themselves in hospital, staying a week or more because of such injuries.
Falls can be prevented. Elderly women often suffer from severe osteoporosis which is all the more critical to prevent falls.
I visited Grandma a day after she was warded and before her hips op. I tried to put on a cheerful smile despite only having 4 hours sleep the night before, my emotion weary. She took one look at me and asked, why is your hair such a mess?
And I know, she is much stronger than me and will recover well.