Slippery Conditions Causing Fear of Falling? 5 Tips to Prevent Falls Outside

| Dr. Eva Norman

3 million people are treated for fall injuries in the emergency room each year and 800,000 people are hospitalized for these injuries.1 Most often these hospitalizations occur due to a head injury or a hip fracture.1 Winter weather is coming soon with several inches of snow fall and ice forming underneath. These conditions can be dangerous when walking in the community especially for older adults due to our balance reactions to prevent a fall being negatively impacted by age and inactivity during the winter months.2 Unfortunately, we cannot avoid leaving our houses in the winter. Despite the harsh weather we still need to run errands and visit our loved ones. They are many ways to prepare for the winter months and here are 5 tips to prevent falls outside!

  1. Wear the Proper Footwear: One of the best ways to avoid a fall this winter is to wear shoes with non-slip rubber soles with grooves to provide extra traction. If you are planning to walk in thicker snow, then you may want to consider shoes that will cover your ankle and are lined with an insulated material to help keep you warm.
  2. Plan for Snowy Days: Build in extra time in your day to walk with your feet further apart and take high marches in deep snow. You do not want to walk too slow, otherwise your balance reactions will not kick in. If the forecast is predicting for a day of heavy snow, then try to run errands the day prior to reduce the number of times you need to leave your house that day.
  3. Prepare Your House for Winter: Make sure you are shoveling the snow in your driveway or sidewalk right away to prevent the buildup of ice underneath. If you are a wheelchair user, ask a friend or loved one to clear all walkways and ramps. You may want to consider applying salt or sand to help melt the snow.
  4. Winterize Your Mobility Aids: Make sure to check the rubber caps on canes and walkers, and the tread on wheels in wheelchairs for normal wear and tear prior to venturing outside for the winter months.3 Consider buying ice grips for canes to improve your ability to navigate slippery terrain.3 If you are manual wheelchair user, waterproof gloves are a must to protect your hands during winter.3
  5. Go See Your Physical Therapist! Now, would be the perfect time to visit your physical therapist for an annual wellness exam. Click here to check out Live Your Life HEALTHY to learn more about our annual physical therapy exam. Your physical therapist can determine your risk of falling in the future and then create a fall prevention treatment program individualized to meet your needs. Should we find you are at high risk of falling, we can provide rehabilitation to improve your functional mobility to allow you to participate in all the activities you love!

 Live Your Life wellness programs are designed to enhance your health, improve your level of fitness, and address any loss of function. Learn more about Live Your Life FALL FREE  to live FALL FREE and contact us for a free consultation!

References

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about falls. www.cdc.gov. Published August 6, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html

2Kanekar N, Aruin AS. Aging and balance control in response to external perturbations: role of anticipatory and compensatory postural mechanisms. Age (Dordr). 2014;36(3):9621. doi:10.1007/s11357-014-9621-83Adjusting mobility aids for winter | Edgewood Healthcare. Published December 17, 2015. Accessed November 25, 2023. https://www.edgewoodhealthcare.com/adjusting-mobility-aids-for-winter/

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