Winter Safety – Preventing Falls
Though we have been fortunate so far this winter not to have too much ice or snow, experience tells me that will not be the case for long. Soon icy steps and snowy walks will increase the likelihood of slipping and falling.
Did you know that falling is the number one cause of injury-related deaths in Wisconsin? And with a fall comes the cost of emergency rooms, hospitalization, rehab stays, physical and occupational therapy, home care and even lost work time for family and friends acting as care givers. OUCH!
For older adults, falls often lead to giving up living independently. And once you have fallen, serious injury or not, the fear of falling again can be a barrier to doing all the things you want to do at home and in your community – volunteering, socializing with friends, going to family events, classes, exercising, running errands, shopping, and more.
Firmly believing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, here are a few ways to reduce your chance of falling this winter, starting with a safety assessment of your home.
- Keep porches, steps, and walkways clear of ice and snow. Many commercial de-icing products are available that either melt snow and ice or can be applied before bad weather to make snow and ice removal easier.
o Bare Ground Deicer™ will keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice for up to 2 weeks. Available in spray or pellets, this or similar products may be found at your local hardware or home improvement store for options.
o Heat Trak® heated floor mats keep sidewalk surfaces at 50 degrees, melting ice and snow and channeling it off the walk. Just roll it out and plug it into an outside outlet. Find out more at www.HeatTrak.com.
- Check that all railings and step surfaces are secure and sound. A loose step can be a tripping hazard, and the last thing you want when you slip is a railing that gives way.
- Remove any obstacles on walkways or at doorways. That nice pot or porch decoration can be a real hazard when the snow flies.
- Improve household lighting. Make sure you can see where you are going and what you are doing, especially when steps or stairs are involved.
o Install automated lighting at entryways, in garages, laundry rooms, long hallways — anywhere that is dark and you might have your hands full.
o Use solar lights that automatically turn on when it gets dark to light the entry path to your home — no need to remember to turn the lights on before you leave the house in the daylight to light your way if you return after dark.
In addition to the things you can do to make your home safer, many communities offer fall prevention workshops , such as Stepping On, that over the course of just a few weeks, build confidence and empower older adults by teaching strength and balance exercises and strategies for being safer in a supportive, small group setting. To see if your community offers Stepping On or a similar fall prevention program, contact your local area agency on aging. In Dane County, call the Dane County Area Agency on Aging at 608-261-9930.
For more 10 Tips for Making Life Easier™ - preventing falls, visit www.MakingLifeEasier.com and click on Top Tips. To make your whole house safer and more accessible, see my latest book Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier available at a bookstore near you or on Amazon.com.
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