While temperatures this winter have been warmer than average, forecasters and groundhogs alike warn that snow and ice are likely before this winter is over. Slippery conditions can lead to a fall which, for many older adults, can be a life-changing event.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths for older Ohioans. However, falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. The STEADY U Ohio initiative, a statewide prevention effort from the Ohio Department of Aging, offers simple steps you can take to ensure that wintry conditions don’t send you slipping and tripping:
- Maintain regular physical activity for strength and balance. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises.
- Eat well and drink plenty of water for the energy and focus to stay on your feet.
- Dress warmly, but avoid coats, gloves, hats and other winter clothing that are bulky or restrict movement.
- Wear boots and shoes that fit properly and have soles with good traction. Keep shoes, canes and walkers dry and free of snow, ice, dirt and mud.
- Keep sidewalks and stairs outside your home clean of ice and snow. Carry a small bag or shaker of rock salt, sand or kitty litter in your pocket or purse for traction on unexpectedly icy paths.
- When walking on surfaces that may be icy, shorten your stride and walk with feet pointed out slightly and knees gently bent to improve traction and balance.
- Avoid walking in more than an inch of snow. Snow can hide curbs, uneven surfaces and other tripping hazards.
- Let loved ones know when you are leaving the house and when you expect to be back. Carry a cell phone with you and call them after you return home.
- Ask your post office, newspaper and garbage collector about service options, such as holds or rescheduling, when conditions are too dangerous for you to go outside.
- Improve lighting around your home with extra lamps and night lights, especially around doorways and stairs. Use the highest-wattage bulbs recommended for your fixtures.
- Keep space heaters, cords and blankets out of walkways. If you must use throw rugs on cold floors, secure them to the floor with tape.
Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov and follow SteadyUOhio on Facebook and Twitter for more falls prevention tips and resources. Your area agency on aging also can help you connect to services and resources like minor home modifications and “A Matter of Balance” workshops designed to help older adults prevent falls. Call 1-866-243-5678 for the agency serving you.
Check on Your Neighbors
For a variety of reasons, older friends and relatives may have a harder time adjusting during extreme conditions than younger people do. If severe weather, such as snow, ice or extreme cold, is forecasted or has just occurred, check in on older friends and family members to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy. Things to check include:
- Are they in good health and do they have the medicine and supplies needed to stay that way?
- Do they need assistance getting around their home?
- Do they have access to clean drinking water and a way to safely store and prepare food?
- Is the temperature in their home in a comfortable and safe range for them?
- Do they have a reliable way to call for help, and do they know who they will call?
- If you or your loved one are ill or injured, call 9-1-1 immediately.