Right now, we are pretty jealous of the birds. How nice would it be if we could simply pick up and fly south for the winter? Seriously though, it hasn’t even been an entire month of Winter yet, and we are already ready for it to be over.
Unfortunately, it appears that the cold weather is here to stay for another couple of months. So, we may as well buckle down, make the best of it and make sure our elderly loved ones stay safe.
With all the snow and ice, we have been having lately, we thought it would be timely to write an article outlining several ways you can help prevent your loved one from experiencing a fall this winter.
Our elderly loved ones are at a high risk of experiencing falls in general, and when you add in the extra variables of snow and ice, the risk of a fall grows exponentially. In fact, throughout the course of a year, statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that 1.6 million Americans over the age of 65 go to the Emergency Room to be treated for fall-related injuries. Even more alarming is the fact that nearly 1/3 of these falls leads to a permanent disability, and on top of that, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in persons older than 75.
Luckily, many of these falls can be avoided with the proper safety and risk avoidance protocols. Keep reading to learn how you can help reduce your elderly loved one’s risk of experiencing a fall or fall-related injury this winter.
Watch What’s on Their Feet
Making sure your elderly loved one wears the right shoes is critical. Their shoes should fit correctly, provide good traction on the heel and sole and be appropriate for the weather. Some shoe manufacturers also provide shoes with special anti-skid soles to reduce the risk of a slip or fall.
Clear the Way
Many falls occur in transition zones throughout the house which is why having a clean and clear walkway between the front door and the car is important. If you do not live close to your elderly loved one, we suggest finding someone you can trust, and hiring them to shovel snow and ice off the sidewalk on a regular basis. They should also apply de-icing material to prevent ice from accumulating.
Lend a Helping Hand
When the weather is bad, we recommend that elderly loved one’s refrain from venturing out. A good way to make sure your loved one doesn’t have to venture out is to run errands for them. You’ll want to make sure they have plenty food and supplies including flashlights, batteries and blankets. In addition, having the mail or newspapers delivered right to the door will ensure your loved one doesn’t need to go outside unless absolutely necessary.
Watch Your Step
Even if a walkway is clear of snow and appears to be clear of ice, your elderly loved one should proceed with caution. Blacktop in parking lots is notorious for appearing just wet, but cold weather can create black ice in a matter of minutes. If your elderly loved one is out in inclement weather, try finding grass or gravel to walk on, as it is generally less slick than pavement.
Can We Fix it? Yes, You Should.
Falls often happen because of surfaces that are unstable or in disrepair. These types of falls are easily avoidable by checking all walkways, stair cases, stepping stones, sidewalks and hand rails. Fix or replace any that are loose, have cracks, raised edges, rotten boards or any other disorder.
Exercise and Eat Right
Keeping your loved one active and healthy will go a long way in helping reduce falls. Staying active will keep your loved one’s muscles limber and help them stay balanced. In addition, keeping a healthy diet will help keep muscles and bones strong to further help safeguard against broken bones in case of a fall.
Always Have a Back Up Plan
Despite all the precautionary measures you and your loved one take, sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent a fall. It is important to have a backup plan in case your loved one experiences a fall. Whenever they travel, your elderly loved one should have a cell phone on their body. In addition, using the buddy system when traveling is critical. This will ensure that someone will be there for them when they fall.
Finally, remember to take your time. Rushing around is a good way to increase the risk of a fall. As always, if you care for an elderly loved one and would like help caring for or developing an extensive care plan, we can help. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.