How to Stay Safe and Avoid Falls this Season

Talk to Your Physical Therapist About Protecting Yourself from Falls and Injuries

Beautiful shades of vibrant red, gold, auburn and orange leaves softly caressing the ground signals fall is  here! While we’ve been spoiled by unusually warm weather temperatures this year, we are finally experiencing brisk temperatures, and need I say, already some snow. Dropping temps and shorter days means winter is around the corner. Now is the time to prepare and protect yourself from fall hazards that may take place from slippery ice or snow, or even in your own home.

Did you know nearly 25% of all Americans over the age of 65 fall each year? Many of these falls can lead to non-fatal injuries like fractures, sprains and strains. However, some can be fatal. As we age, balance, vision, leg muscle weakness, low-blood pressure and side-effects from medications can increase our risk for falls.

More than three-quarters of all falls take place in the home. With an increase in the aging population, more and more seniors are living independently on their own. If you are older and live alone, or have elderly parents or a loved one, please read this.

Follow these easy tips to be safe this season:

  • De-clutter, re-route electrical wires and remove obstacles that may obstruct your view and cause you to trip.
  • If you use a walker or cane, remove rugs where assistive devices may get caught. If you have mats, make sure they are backed with rubber support that stay securely on the floor and do not have turned corners.
  • Replace or re-stretch buckled carpeting so you do not accidentally stumble.
  • Immediately clean any wet spots on floors to avoid slips. Place water-absorbent, walk-off mats where water, soap or ice may accumulate. Examples include the front door and shower.
  • Equip your house with good lighting. Even at night, use nightlights to help guide you to the bathroom.
  • Put a nightstand next to your bed where a phone and eye glasses are easily accessible, in case of emergencies.
  • If you experience dizziness or have trouble standing, install a bed rail to help give you support while your body adjusts to a sitting position.
  • Keep common kitchen and household items within reach. Put your plates, glasses, cups, seasonings and small appliances on the counter or lower level of the cabinet.
  • If you have poor balance and strength, consider installing handrails in bathrooms and grab bars in showers and near the toilet. Also add non-slip rubber mats in the bathtub or shower.
  • Stairs should also have handrails on both sides as opposed to one to provide added stability.
  • If you have difficulty seeing, provide visual cues on stairs, like high-contrast colored tape, making it easier for you to sense steps.
  • Keep your front door stocked with ice-melt chemicals and salt for slippery, snowy days. If it snows and it’s icy outside, always exit using your garage entrance (if you have one) and avoid outdoor steps. Invest in a snow service to for snow removal. If you need to shovel snow, remember to lift from your knees and not your back [1].

Quite often local fire departments, like Rochester Hills, will provide complimentary on-site assessments to ensure your home is hazard-free. Also, if you experience pain and/or difficulty walking, ask your physician to provide documentation for you to get a handicap license plate or card.

If you are worried about falling, visit a physical therapist to screen your risk for falls and show you strategies and exercises to improve balance, coordination, mobility and strength. Based on evaluation results, a physical therapist will design a program to help increase leg strength, build endurance, recommend assistive devices for patients, and teach safety precautions.

Barclay Physical Therapy cares about your well-being. If you feel we can help, call us at 248-853-5853 for a complimentary fall risk assessment.

[1] Slip, Trip, Fall Prevention For Healthcare Workers. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Dec 2010. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-123/pdfs/2011-123.pdf