With cool weather moving in and winter at our heels, autumn is a perfect time to slow down and take stock of your home and your safety. Cold weather, while usually forcing us to remain cozy indoors, can also bring many fall risks for older Americans. According to the National Institute of Health, 6 out of every 10 falls happen in or around the home. Making small changes, both to your home and your lifestyle, can prevent many of these falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year, which has been attributed to over 2.3 million annual trips to the ER. One of our main goals at Medical Guardian is to help people become more proactive about their risks, rather than reactive after an accident has occurred through elderly fall prevention. These small changes in and around your home can make all the difference to your long-term health.
Inside the House
These simple fixes inside your home can help you continue preventing slips, trips and falls at home:
Improve Your Lighting. Installing brighter lights and night lights in hallways and bathrooms can make a huge difference when it comes to your safety. Dim lighting in high traffic areas and inadequate lighting at night opens the door to harmful falls. Make sure you use bulbs with the highest wattage recommended for lamps and light fixtures.
Rearrange Furniture. While your space may benefit from some new Feng Shui, it’s more important to rearrange furniture to ensure that you have a clear path to walk freely. This also means creating clutter-free zones on stairways, hallways, and high-traffic pathways.
Use Non-Slip Strips. These easy to install strips can be found at a local hardware store and are great for the stairs, the bathroom, and the kitchen. If you’d prefer not to put the strips in the bathroom and kitchen, you can also use rubber mats in areas that typically get wet to help you maintain your balance.
Add Safety Rails for Stability. Handrails on stairs, grab bars in the shower or tub and near the toilet can help you to avoid falls as well. You can use them to help you securely balance when you are in higher risk areas of the house.
Outside the House
While you can’t change the weather, you can change how you react to the weather outside of your house to ensure your safety this winter:
Hire Some Help. When bad weather strikes, it’s not safe for you to be out there shoveling snow after a certain age. Hire a local snow removal company or a neighbor to help you with getting rid of snow this winter.
Keep Supplies on Hand. Keeping a big bag of salt to help melt ice (especially black ice!) and ice removal tools in your garage or shed will prove to be useful in nasty weather. Laying salt before a potentially big storm can help mitigate your damage afterwards.
Improve Your Lighting. Similar to the suggested change for inside the house, providing good lighting along clear pathways and walking areas can end up being a life saver.
Invest in Solid Footwear. Shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice are the best for winter fall prevention. In the same vein, you should avoid shoes or boots that have smooth soles or high heels.
Whether inside or outside the house, we also recommend paying close attention to where you are placing your feet when you are walking. Distractions such as smart phones and conversations with friends can be enough to cause a tumble. Stay warm and safe this winter!
What steps did you take to stay warm and safe this winter? Did any of the above help? Share with us in the comments below.
Hilary Young is the Communications Manager for Medical Guardian. She helps to keep baby boomers and their loved ones educated about their health and wellbeing. She is also a regular contributor to the Medical Guardian Blog, the Huffington Post, and BlogHer.com.