Falls are the most common cause of injury among British Columbia seniors and are the main reason why older adults lose their independence. Each year, one in three seniors over the age of 65 experience at least one fall and nearly 40 per cent of fall-related hospitalizations involve a hip fracture — which greatly impacts the health and well-being of our seniors.
Winter conditions, such as snow and ice, are known to increase the likelihood of experiencing a fall. Last year, 319 B.C. seniors aged 65 and over experienced fall-related hospitalizations due to ice and snow.
According to Canadian Institute of Health Information data, over 70 per cent occurred between January and March. This information is often referred to as the tip of the iceberg, as many more fall injuries are treated in clinics, emergency departments and doctors' offices.
Falls usually happen due to factors that can be prevented. Identifying fall risk and taking the appropriate action to prevent falls can help seniors to stay independent and increase their overall health and well-being.
Here are some tips to ensure seniors stay fall-free this winter:
• Check your traction. Wearing appropriate shoes and boots for slippery sidewalks and stairs can help to avoid a fall. Research has shown that wearing an anti-slip shoe device can reduce the risk of a fall in icy conditions.
• Stay connected. Letting people know your plans and taking a cell phone with you when you leave the house are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family.
• Vitamin D and calcium. Research has shown that Vitamin D and calcium play an important role for muscular strength and bone health. During the winter months, it is especially important to eat foods high in Vitamin D and calcium and/or take supplements to get the recommended daily intake.
• Stay active. Strong muscles and bones are important in preventing falls and getting around safely. If winter conditions make it unsafe to exercise outdoors, stay active with an indoor routine that includes strengthening and balance exercises.
• Bring in the salt. Keep your salt and shovel indoors to avoid slipping while on your way to the garage or storage shed to get it.
• Shovel the walkway. Keep your steps and pathways clear. Check your railings and ensure they are sturdy, as they may save you from an unexpected slip or trip.
• Ask for help. Most people are happy to help an older person navigate across a slippery sidewalk or parking lot.
• Have a plan. If you experienced a fall, what would you do? Being prepared in the event of a fall can assist in getting help as quickly as possible, and may even save your life.
• Ask yourself if you are at risk. Check your risk for falling with the Staying Independent fall risk assessment tool at www.seniorsbc.ca/stayingindependent.
Find information to help you to stay fall-free this winter season through the websites listed below: for information on prevention, causes, consequences and treatment of fall-related injuries: http://www.seniorsbc.ca/, the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility: www.hiphealth.ca/CEMFIA or senior-focused publications like the BC Seniors Guide and SeniorsBC e-Newsletter helps seniors live healthy and active lives.