Fall Prevention: To Fall or Not to Fall
As we are now into our winter months we all need to be more careful when walking outdoors with the slippery weather conditions. Falls are mostly preventable with some planning and precautions. Most falls are a result of improper footwear, tripping or slipping hazards, medical conditions or medication side effects, difficulty with perceiving risks, or fatigue.
Wearing footwear that is appropriate for the weather conditions is a must - fashion should not be your first priority when heading out the door in snowy and icy conditions. Boots should have a good tread and fit properly. Also, make sure walkways and driveways are clear and salted; keep a small bag of sand or salt with you to help you walk on slippery surfaces.
Most falls occur within a person’s home so it’s a good idea to walk around your home and identify potential fall hazards which may be present. A good example would be loose rugs or mats scattered throughout the living space. Any loose rug should have a grip pad underneath or be properly secured to the floor so it doesn’t move when walked on. Be mindful of clutter in your home and ensure that it is not blocking stairways and doors. We talked about outside footwear but it is also a good idea to wear sturdy shoes inside. A slipper or shoe with a good rubber sole, support and that fits around your heel is best (no flip-flops or heel-less slippers, please!). Make sure your home is well lit and use a night light in the hall so you can see when using the washroom at night.
We recommend that people meet their pharmacist or Health Care Provider and do a medication review annually. It is important to be aware of any side effects your meds may cause and to ensure that there are no drug interactions. If you are taking any herbal medicines this should be discussed as well. Getting your eyes checked regularly and wearing the PROPER prescribed eye wear is essential. Be very careful when first wearing new glasses, especially bifocals, as these change your depth perception and many people have had a slip or fall on stairs while getting used to a new pair of eyeglasses. People’s eating habits can also have a major effect on their stability and balance – it is very important to eat as healthy meals as possible as this helps people stay on their feet as well as having stronger body for less injury or faster recovery if they do have a fall. Keeping active with regular exercise is key to maintaining good balance and muscle strength which will help keep you on your feet.
If you have any safety devices that help you stay on your feet, please use them. Properly installed grab bars and shower chairs in the bathroom are very helpful. If it is recommended by a health care provider to use a mobility aid such as a cane or a walker it is important that you do so. Sharing your mobility aid with others is not recommended as they are fit for the individual person.
If you have fallen or feel you are at risk of falling please talk to your Health Care Provider. There are exercise programs available in Thunder Bay, many which are free.
Debbie Ward is a Community Health Worker and a member of the Falls Prevention Program at the NorWest Community Health Centres.
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