Prevent Falls & Injury During Winter

Dec 15, 2022

For older adults, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, which ultimately can be fatal. Even for elderly patients who do not die due to injury from a fall, consequences can lead to nursing home stays and subsequent health decline. Orthopedic injuries from falls, such as broken bones in the wrist, arm, ankle, or hip, are common in all seasons, but Winter can be the worst.

Risk Factors for Falls

General risk factors for falling, in winter or in other seasons, include:

  • Age
  • Previous fall
  • Poor vision
  • Chronic conditions
  • Use of multiple medications
  • Fear of falling

12 Tips for Icy Conditions & Winter Safety

Take The Time to Take Care

  1. Be careful getting out of your car. Plant both feet firmly on the ground before moving. Steady yourself on the door frame until you have your balance. Tense muscles can adversely affect your balance. Don’t take shortcuts. Stay on cleared sidewalks and paths, and don’t walk between parked cars.
  2. Being in too much of a hurry as you dash into the store for a gallon of milk can be asking for trouble. Always be cautious and allow extra time.
  3. Walk with a slower and also wider gait to protect against falls. Making these changes in your walking adds greater stability.
  4. While it may seem harmless to get the mail in your bathrobe, this can increase your chances of injury or cold exposure if you take a tumble on an icy driveway. It is important to wear gloves, warm clothing, and footwear with good traction. Adding ice grippers to your shoes is a great idea.
  5. Always have a cell phone with you. If you do fall, you can call a neighbor, spouse, or even emergency medical help.
  6. Clear your sidewalks and driveway. It's worth it to prevent a fall even if it requires asking for help from others.
  7. Toss kitty litter or sand onto the ground in front of you to provide better traction when walking on surfaces that may be slippery.
  8. Ask your primary care provider for a referral to William Newton Hospital Rehabilitation Services to any address balance deficits. A physical therapist can assess your personal risk of falling. If you are at higher risk due to low vision or other medical conditions, your provider can help develop a preventive action plan.
  9. Increasing calcium from food sources or supplements and getting enough vitamin D are important for bone health, which protects against orthopedic injuries. Since northern U.S. states are too far away from the sun to get adequate vitamin D in the winter, ask your provider about supplementation.
  10. Never stick your hands in the snow blower. If snow becomes too impacted, stop the engine and wait more than five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.
  11. Get your vision and hearing checked every year and update your eyeglasses. Your eyes and ears are key to keeping you on your feet.
  12. Be careful around small pets, one of the most common trip hazards for senior adults.

What to do After A Tumble?

William Newton Hospital Encourages Patients & Community Members to Follow These Steps:

  1. Do not get up right away or let anyone help you up immediately. Doing so has the potential of causing further injury. Lie there for a moment. Take your time and assess how you are feeling.
  2. Once you’ve assessed your injury status, if you are able to get up, first roll onto one side. Bending your knees toward you, push up with your arms and use your legs to finish standing up.
  3. If you did have someone help you to your feet, make sure they aren’t injured doing so.
  4. If you do need assistance getting up from a fall, use your cellphone or mobile medical alert device. In many communities, fire departments will come help citizens get up from falls, even with no injury.
  5. Call 911 or emergency medical help if the fall created an emergency situation.

Fall Prevention - Awareness Reminder

As cold weather is around the corner, it’s a great time to think about preventing people and especially older adults from falling and getting hurt. It’s the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits.

In fact, every 13 seconds, an older adult is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury. One out of five falls also causes a serious injury such as broken bones or head injury and falls can lead to depression, loss of mobility, and loss of functional independence.

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls each year and every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. All of us at William Newton Hospital, want you to stay safe by preventing falls.

Posted in Head-to-Toe Health on Dec 15, 2022