Preventing falls amongst older people this winter
4th December 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Winter is a fantastic time of year, filled with celebrations like Halloween, fireworks night and Christmas. However for those who are unsteady on their feet or lack confidence in their balance it can be quite scary. Falls in older adults can be very debilitating and this can lead to a fear of falling that prevents older adults from leaving their houses at this time of year. This is especially prevalent in those with limited mobility who rely on stair lifts to aid them up and down stairs.
However the weather should not be a reason to stay indoors. With a little planning and a few small changes, everyone can be much safer this winter and prevent falls. Read below to see how you can stay upright in the colder season.
Keeping paths clear of obstacles is important throughout the year to minimise the possibility of falls. However it is especially important in the winter months when paths could be icy. Keeping on top of the garden is important all year as low branches or brambles can easily trip people as they are traversing the path.
In the winter it can be necessary to treat the surface of the path for better traction. If you live in a cold area that often experiences ice, keep the main thoroughfares gritted or salted to avoid slips. If you live in an area that receives snowfall, invest in equipment that is comfortable to use to help you clear snow. It is also worth stocking up on non-perishable goods just in case the weather prevents you going out for a couple of days.
Wearing the correct shoes can go a long way in helping people keep their balance. Well-fitting shoes with no extra room may not be the most comfortable for those who suffer with swollen joints or bunions, however if the foot moves too much in the shoe it can offset a person’s gait. Invest in a pair of well-fitting and water proof shoes that support the ankle for short journeys in winter months.
The sole of the shoe is important in the winter as it needs to maintain traction on possibly slippery surfaces. Opt for a shoe with a raised pattern on the sole and rubber soles to help maintain grip and reduce the wear so they will be useful for more than one winter.
Prepare Mobility Aids
While there may be no need to change a mobility scooter over to snow tires, there are some ways you can prepare your mobility aids for winter. Over the course of the year, the rubber tip of canes and frames can become damaged so replacing these are important. Also consider investing in Ice pick attachments for canes and frames. These small spiked devices will help on slippery surfaces.
Install Grab Handles
If you have stairs on the way out of your property, these can be a real hazard, especially in cold and wet weather. To overcome this, install grab handles on either one, or both sides of the stairs wherever possible. This can help you as you descend the stairs. If you already have grab handles, check each winter that they are in good condition and able to take your weight should you slip.
Keep Hands Free
Keeping hands out of pockets not only allows people to make use of rails, but also to regain balance if they feel unsteady. This does not mean that people should have cold hands. Instead, invest in a pair of warm and well-fitting gloves that have grip dots on the palms and fingers. The extra texture helps you hold on to surfaces that might be icy or wet while your hands remain warm and dry.
Get your senses checked
The low light in the winter can contribute to the hazards you encounter when you are out and about which is why it is important to make sure you have had a recent eye check and your prescription is up to date.
Your hearing could also alter your balance as your inner ear is responsible for this. Ensure any problems are checked ahead of the time so your experience this winter is not adversely affected. It is also important that in low light levels, your other senses are in top condition to help alert you to other dangers, such as unseen cars when crossing a road.
Exercise at home
You can improve your balance with simple exercises at home. Whether you want to improve your stability or strength, there are a couple of simple poses that will help you keep your body in good condition. Practicing your balance at home is a great way to improve it and Elder Gym have a range of exercises they suggest to try out.