20 Dec Winter Fall and Injury Prevention
Cold, slippery weather is dangerous for everyone, especially if they do not take the proper precautions during the winter time. But for older adults, frozen weather can not only be treacherous but also life threatening at times. According to the National Institute of Health, 1.6 million older adults go to the ER each year due to falls or fall-related injuries. When the temperature drops, the fall rates increase significantly.
Seniors fall more often for a number of reasons. For older people, sensation declines, especially in their feet and even more so if they have diabetes, arthritis, poor circulation, or stroke-related complications. Also, most seniors walk with an unsteady gait due to the previously stated complications or the medications they are taking, most of which cause drowsiness, dizziness, or vertigo. It is important for seniors as well as everyone else to take precautions during the cold winter months.
Here are three tips to keep in mind all year long.
- Work hard to maintain and increase flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance. The stronger you are, the less prone you are to having a bad fall.
- Get routine eye exams. As we age our eyesight worsens, increasing the chance of a fall. It is easier to miss the patch of ice on the stairs if you cannot see very well in the first place.
- Visit your doctor frequently. By doing this, you and your physician can monitor the side effects of your medications. Also, keep in mind that flu and cold medicines often make people very drowsy.
When cold weather strikes, it will be important for you to take or have taken these measures to prevent falls and injuries.
- Like we stated before, maintain exercise during the colder months. Also, before venturing out into the cold, winter wonderland, be sure to stretch your muscles so they do not tense.
- Monitor the weather so you can be prepared for what is coming. You do not want to be caught off guard in a snow storm (not that we have too many of those in Mississippi).
- If you are feeling fatigued, don’t go out. Wait to run your errands, or have someone do them for you.
- If you must go out, wear proper clothing. Staying warm is extremely important for seniors who have a diminished response to colder weather. Warm, pliable muscles increase flexibility. Proper clothing includes warm hats, gloves, rubber sole shoes, and light, loose fitting layers, which pocket warm air that acts as insulation.
- Surprisingly, eating well and properly can help prevent injury during the winter months. Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages, which lower your ability to stay warm. Also, if you are going to be outside, eat or drink something warm with a fair amount of sugar that can be converted into energy or heat, like hot chocolate.
- Get help carrying large or heavy packages, so you can pay more attention to where your feet hit the ground and have better balance.
- Keep your eyes open for products that can help keep you safe, like handrails, shoe chains, ice salt. One product that would be great for stairs and areas right outside of the front door is a heated mat. The ice and snow would melt away, helping to prevent you from slipping on the stairs.
Hopefully these tips will help prevent nasty falls, but if you do fall, try to avoid landing on knees, wrists, or spine. Although it is hard to do, try to relax your muscles and land on your side. This could help prevent major injuries that could take months to recover from. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you want to learn about how to stay active in cold weather, call us at 662-282-4949.
By Cory Lee