FYI Daily

Nancy Reagan's Fall Wasn't Her First

Last updated: May 24, 2012

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The first time the loved one in your care falls, it's unnerving. But it can get downright scary when the falls happen repeatedly -- as is surprisingly common. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan has had the latest in a series of falls, breaking several ribs. News of the fall, which happened in March at her home, became public when she missed an event at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, because her recovery time was slower than expected, reports CNN.

In 2008, Reagan, now 90, was hospitalized for two days after a fall at home. Later that same year, she broke her pelvis. As is common in patients with a fractured pelvis, Reagan didn't see a doctor for a week after the fall, when persistent pain finally drove her to seek help. Older adults often dismiss falls or keep them secret for fear of losing independence.

Last year, Senator Marco Rubio caught her before she hit the ground when she lost her balance at a speech. Frequent falls can have many causes, including balance problems due to medication, inner ear disorders, changes in blood pressure, general physical frailty, and fear of falling after you've fallen once before; no word on what, if anything, beyond bad luck might be underlying Mrs. Reagan's falls.

She became one of the most famous faces in caregiving when her late husband, President Ronald Reagan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and the couple largely receded from public life. President Reagan died in 2004.

Although the petite former First Lady has been hale enough to make occasional public appearances since his death, such as for the unveiling of the Reagan statue in the Capitol Rotunda and on behalf of the Alzheimer's Association, she's no less vulnerable than other 80- or 90-somethings to accidental falls.

It's helpful for every caregiver to be aware of ways to help someone avoid falling and what doctors should evaluate after a fall.

Image by Flickr user US Embassy New Delhi, used under a Creative Commons license.