Be CAREFUL !
Stay safe on snow and ice
Preventing Falls: Staying Safe Outdoors in Cold Temperatures
By Robert MacArthur, Chief Medical Officer, Commonwealth Care Alliance
As the temperature falls each winter, so do people of all ages. Winter’s cold, rain, sleet, and snow make it easier to fall. Children fall all the time and jump right back up. But for adults, a fall can be severe and even deadly. This is very true for older adults.
Did you know that three million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports More than 800,000 are hospitalized – most often with head injuries or hip fractures.
Falls are a big concern for older adults, many of whom live alone. Older adults have more risk for falls for several reasons. These include loss of bone mass and muscle strength, balance disorders, vertigo and vision changes.
There is no way to prevent falls entirely, but there are ways to reduce the risk for a fall. Family members, healthcare providers, and older adults can work together to develop a tailored plan for accomplishing daily tasks, going to appointments and completing errands in cold temperatures and bad weather.
Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of falling:
• Plan ahead. Try to plan trips around the weather. If you need to go out, wait for the conditions to become clear for walking and traveling safely. You should also allow for enough time to get where you are going. You are more likely to fall when you rush and do not use caution.
• Talk to your doctor about vitamin D. Vitamin D makes bones and muscles stronger and might lower the risk of falls in older adults.
• Ask for help. It’s okay to ask for help. Talk to a family member or neighbor about shoveling your driveway, sidewalks, and steps. Have someone available to help you navigate slippery or unsafe paths.
• Wear appropriate footwear. Wear shoes or boots with rough soles that have a good grip and do not slip or slide in all conditions – like black ice. Avoid wearing shoes that are too loose or that have high heels.
• Dress for the weather. Wearing a couple of extra layers of clothing will keep you warm. More layers can also provide padding should you fall. Gloves will also to keep your hands warm and ready to help you balance.
• Use handrails. When walking up or down stairs, or along a sloping walkway, always use a handrail. Should you slip, you are less likely to fall if you are holding onto a railing.
• Clean your shoes or switch to indoor shoes once you are inside. Snow and ice can freeze to the soles of shoes, making them slippery. Once inside, ice can melt and create slick spots. Walking around with bare feet and socks can also lead to a fall. Always sit down before attempting to remove shoes or boots.
• Stay Active: Regular exercise can help lower your risk of falling. If the weather is poor, try to walk around inside a few times a day. If the weather isn’t too bad, use your trip to the grocery story to get some steps by walking down each aisle or do a few laps at an indoor mall.
• Have a safety plan. Whenever possible, let someone know where you are going. Make sure you have a phone with you and that it is easy to reach. That way, if you do fall while you are alone, you can call for help.
The temperatures will fall this winter. Make sure that you do not.