Taking a stand against falls

Brrrrr … it’s c-cold outside! When the temperatures start to dip, our minds turn to thoughts of snow and ice. Of course, this makes us some of us worry about slips and falls for ourselves and our families. When bad weather is predicted, my husband and his brothers immediately start making assignments for snow shoveling and salting where my mother-in-law lives.

All of us should be mindful of the risks of slipping during icy weather:

  • Are your shoes appropriate for the weather?
  • Are you consistently using walkways through parking lots instead of grassy surfaces?
  • Are pathways well lit?
  • Are walkways free from ice and snow?
  • Do you allow enough time to clear ice and snow from pathways around your house as you prepare to leave in the morning?
  • Are you rushing to get to your destination?

A trip to the emergency room or an extended hospital stay will make life much harder for yourself and your loved ones who depend on you. A fall can cause brain or spinal-cord injury, or it can aggravate existing health conditions and lead to life-long problems.

Falls are a leading cause of injuries for both children and older adults. Approximately 8,000 children are seen in U.S. emergency rooms every day. Every year one in three people over the age of 65 will fall.

For the elderly population, 20 – 30 percent of people who fall will suffer a moderate to severe injury such as a laceration, hip fracture or head trauma. Most fractures older adults are caused by falls, with the most common being in the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand. These injuries can permanently change a person’s independence and mobility.

Many falls in children happen at the playground. Forty-five percent of playground injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations and amputations. Many of these falls can cause a traumatic brain injury, which can be life-changing. A brain injury can lead to life-long problems in memory, coordination and concentration. A traumatic brain injury can cause permanent disabilities or even death.

Now, the good news: Falls are preventable.

For the older adult, about half of all falls happen in the home, so home safety is one of the key steps we can take to reduce the risk of falling:

  • Is there adequate lighting throughout the house, including stairways?
  • Can nightlights be placed in areas to enhance safety at nighttime?
  • Is there a clear pathway from your bed to your bathroom with adequate lighting?
  • Are there clear pathways around your house, free of clutter and furniture?
  • Do stairways have tight, easy-to-grip railings?
  • Are there grab-bars in your bathroom?
  • Does your bathroom have non-slip rubber mats and flooring?
  • Are you using your walkers and canes consistently in the home, if needed?
  • Are you using shoes with non-skid soles and shorter garments or pants?
  • Are cords secured?
  • Are there throw rugs throughout your house? (These can be a tripping hazard.)

Keeping children free from falls:

  • Are your children consistently wearing their helmets when they are on their bikes or scooters, and playing contact sports?
  • Does the playground equipment look safe?
  • Do your children know to use playground equipment properly?
  • Do children at play have adequate adult supervision?
  • Are your toddlers using play centers instead of walkers?
  • Are there safety gates at the tops and bottoms of the stairs?
  • Do children at play have adequate adult supervision?

Falls are something we all need to think about during the year. The injuries related to falls do not have to happen if we all take the time to make a few changes and pay attention to our surroundings.

For more information, free downloadable activities and checklists on safety topics for children and adults go to www.safekids.org or www.cdc.gov.