On a Sunday morning several years ago, as my wife and I were leaving for church, I received a phone call from one of my dear patients who told me that her husband had had a stroke and she wanted me to stop by. We were already late for church, so a few minutes would not make any difference, especially as the minister spoke at a later time in the service.

As I entered the house, my patient related that her husband had complained about a headache and dizziness for the past few days and his symptoms were not relieved by aspirin. He was lying unconscious in his bed and I immediately took his blood pressure and pulse, which were stable. He did not respond to painful stimuli and showed no sign of respiratory distress. I recommended to his wife that she hospitalize him immediately and that I would call the ambulance. While waiting for te ambulanceto come, I asked his wife if he had recently fallen. She thought for a while and stated that a few days ago, while going downstairs to the basement that he struck his head, which was evident by a prominent swelling. His complaints of headaches were disregarded.

The ambulance arrived and he was taken to the hospital. After appropriate X-rays, it was decided that he had a subdural hemorrhage. Neurosurgeons were consulted and he was taken immediately to the operating room for removal of the blood that was causing pressure on the brain. After recuperating, he was discharged with minimal neurological impairment.

It has been reported by the CDC that 1 of 3 Americans aged 55 and older suffer a fall each year and that of 18,000 victims who fall, 46 percent die of traumatic brain injuries. There are many factors that cause elderly patients to fall, and usually those factors are found in the home.

A great number of home accidents happen during the holiday season. No matter how old mom and pop may be, they still think they can climb walls and hang on chandeliers. I would suggest that seniors heed the following recommendations if they want to enjoy the holidays outside of the hospital:

• When the doorbell or phone rings, just take your time and walk. If it’s important, the person will either wait at the door or phone you again.

• Don’t wear sloppy shoes or slippers that can get caught on rugs and uneven floor boards.

• Don’t wear oversized, long robes that may get caught under your feet, causing you to trip.

• Take up all those extra throw rugs on the floor. They are nothing but foot catchers and may cause you to trip.

• Wear shoes with flat heels and rubber soles and make sure they fit well.

• If your medication makes you feel dizzy, tell your doctor to change it. Whatever you do, don’t take the medicine before coming down the stairs.

• A little alcohol with medication can make you a little drunk, and you can lose your balance and fall. Be careful with that holiday toddy.

• When you arise from bed, take it easy and adjust your balance before walking.

• Make sure that your eyeglasses are properly adjusted to your changing vision.

• Be sure to have night lights on in the hall and in the bathroom if you must get up.

• Be careful walking on highly waxed floors and other slippery surfaces. If you have a cane or walker, use it.

• Don’t climb up on stools and ladders trying to do the impossible. Get those grandchildren over—they’ll help you.

I hope the above suggestions will make your season happy, enjoyable, full of fun and save you from an unnecessary injury.

Oh, by the way, we did get to church to hear the sermon and enjoy the blessing of the Christmas message!