Seniors often go to considerable lengths to reduce the risk of falling inside the home—eliminating tripping hazards such as throw rugs and extension cords, installing grab bars in bathrooms and railings on stairs, applying a non-skid surface to the bathtub, and so on. Then, along comes Old Man Winter to turn all of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan into one big slip-and-fall hazard. Area seniors who aren’t especially cautious and vigilant at this time of year can all too easily end up experiencing a painful—and potentially debilitating—fall on icy or snow-covered surfaces.
However, with the proper precautions, seniors can minimize the risk of slipping and falling on slick outdoor surfaces in wintertime. Here are some suggestions that will help:
Keep the deicer handy
Sidewalk/driveway deicer isn’t much help if you have to walk across perilously slick surfaces to reach it in a detached garage or storage shed. Keep your deicing product within easy reach inside your home (e.g., in a foyer or mudroom) or an attached garage. The same applies to your snow shovel.
Hire a snow-removal service
Not only does the act of shoveling heavy snow in the cold present serious health risks to seniors in and of itself, but it also puts them in much greater jeopardy of slipping or losing their balance and falling. Consider hiring a professional snow-removal service—if not a grandchild or neighbor kid—to take on this treacherous chore for you. It will be money well spent, and your body will thank you for it.
Check your traction
We all know it’s wise to verify that we have adequate tread on our vehicle tires before winter sets in, but it’s equally important to ensure that your shoes, boots, and other footwear will provide adequate traction on snow and ice. Dress shoes can be particularly slip-prone, so if you’re heading somewhere dressy, it’s a good idea to wear boots en route and carry your dress shoes with you so you can change into them when you arrive.
That ornate wrought-iron railing along your front stairs may give your home wonderful curb appeal, but how will it hold up if it as to support your whole weight after you slip on ice? If it’s wobbly, rusty, or otherwise structurally compromised, it’s a good idea to get it replaced with something sturdier.
Keep your hands free
While navigating potentially slick sidewalks, driveways, steps, or parking lots, be sure to keep your hands free so you can grab a railing or other stable object in the event of a slip or so you can break your fall if you can’t regain your balance. Wear gloves instead of warming your hands in your pockets, and get help with carrying groceries or other loads on icy or snowy surfaces.
Don’t bring winter indoors
Snow and ice carried indoors on boots and shoes can create a major slip-and-fall hazard on hard flooring surfaces, such as wood, linoleum, and laminate. Remove snowy/icy footwear at the door (and encourage visitors to do the same), and be sure to wipe up tracked-in snow, ice, or water promptly.
We all recall—and have probably snickered at—the famous Life Alert® catchphrase: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” But experiencing a debilitating fall with no one nearby to help is no laughing matter. Factor in extremely cold temperatures, and such a fall can quickly turn deadly. To avoid this scenario, it’s strongly advised that seniors utilize a medical alert system so medical help and other emergency services are available at the push of a button. At the very least, they should carry a cell phone in an easily accessible location on their body so they can call someone for help if necessary.
Consider preventive physical therapy
Stronger arm, leg, and core muscles will help you maintain your balance better, make it easier to catch and stabilize yourself if you slip, reduce the risk of serious injury in the event of a fall, and help you get back on your feet more easily. A qualified physical therapist or personal trainer should be able to help you implement a manageable workout regimen that will strengthen these key muscles. ❦