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Rona Barrett


Rona Barrett: ‘Darling, I Just Don’t See Myself in a Wheelchair’

By Rona Barrett |

[Noozhawk’s note: Entertainment journalist, author and senior activist Rona Barrett will be writing regularly on senior issues for Noozhawk, her hometown news source. Click here for a related article.]

My girlfriend was a stubborn person. She still posted letters — typical British.

One day she found herself nearly penniless, living in a rented cottage, needing assistance.

On a rare rainy day in May, my friend said to her roommate, “Oh darling, would you kindly drop my letter in the post?”

Her roommate says, “Oh, dear, I don’t think I can do that. It’s raining. I’ll post as soon as the rain stops a bit.”

She says, “All right, fine.”

While her roommate watches television, my friend slips out the door — in her slippers and her nightclothes.

Her cottage sits atop a steep hill. She slips down the hill, falls. She’s lying on the driveway when a car passes by and the two men inside see her. Knocked out. They come up to the house. Then they rush her to the hospital.

She has broken her hip. They do surgery. She gets a hip replacement. But she refuses to go to rehabilitation.

I ask her, “Why are you being so foolish?”

She says, “Darling, I just don’t see myself in a wheelchair.”

She was so self-consciousness of what others might think. In all the years I knew her, she refused to tell me how old she was and lied to doctors about her age.

So this was the beginning of the end for my stubborn, prideful girlfriend.

One in three of us over the age of 65, one in two by the age of 80, will have one of these potential “beginning of the end” falls each year. More than half hospitalized from falls and hip fractures do not come home from the hospital or are not capable of living independently again.

If you are a senior, or have a senior in your life, get a free fall prevention risk assessment as well as additional information on how to stay independent. Click here for more information about The Falls Free Initiative at the National Council on Aging.

In the meantime, there are three things you can do right now to prevent your own or your loved one’s “beginning of the end."

» Make fall prevention a team effort with your loved ones. Set your egos aside and remember your common goal: keeping you or your independent senior independent.

» Inspect your/their living environment for risks. Hazards — including clutter, slippery rugs and poor lighting — can be fixed simply, quickly and inexpensively.

» You know those old loose fitting, worn slippers we all keep around like an old friend? They are a hazard. Give yourself or your senior a new pair of easy-to-slip-on, well-fitted slippers with traction.

One of the goals of the Rona Barrett Foundation is to create a “Central Coast Fall Prevention Initiative” that makes fall prevention an ongoing top health priority throughout our Central Coast.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons from my friend’s painful ordeal: don’t be stubborn and don’t let your ego get in the way of living your later life to the fullest.

Until next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.

— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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