The Winter season in Canada is beautiful and breathtaking, but it can also be extremely dangerous, especially for seniors.
Winters in Canada bring with them sub-zero temperatures, limited sunshine, and reduced outdoor mobility. Simple tasks, such as stepping out of your car, or going out on your front porch, can become a hazard due to icy and slippery conditions.
In fact, accidental slips and fall-related injuries are 12 times more likely to occur in winter than in other seasons. In this article, we will look at what precautions and measures you can take during winter months to ensure your loved ones stay protected while still being able to do the things they love!
Importance Of Senior Fall Prevention In Winter
It’s estimated that about 20% to 30% of Canadian seniors suffer a fall-related injury and require hospitalization every year. The majority of these injuries also happen in the winter. This is no coincidence.
What makes seniors more prone to falling in icy or slippery conditions, are the natural changes in their gait patterns. Gait pattern is the motion of walking in which the knee joints and muscles propel the lower leg and foot forward to form a steady movement.
It is natural to develop abnormal gait patterns as one gets older (above 65). Abnormal gait patterns can form as a result of declining muscle strength that can cause instability during walking in snowy or icy conditions.
This is why taking the right precautions and care can go a long way when it comes to avoiding potential falls and injuries to seniors during Canada’s frozen winter months.
Tips For Senior Fall Prevention In Winter
The below-mentioned tips can help in the prevention of accidental falls among seniors who live independently.
Automatic Fall Detection
The first thing you should do if you are worried about the risk of your loved one falling is to invest in an automatic fall detection device.
This device automatically alerts caregivers, medical authorities, and family members in case one has had a fall - even if they are unable to call for help themselves.
Maintaining Good Bone Health
Arthritic bones are more prone to fractures in cold temperatures. As such, seniors should eat a calcium and nutrient-rich diet that can help strengthen bones. Such a diet consists of a high intake of green vegetables and dairy products.
Seniors who do not like certain foods can always talk to a nutritionist for a meal plan that includes all the supplements they need for healthier bones.
Take It Slow & Steady
Seniors should take advantage of their ‘retired lifestyle’ to plan things at their own pace. So, if they plan on treading outdoors for leisurely walks, going grocery shopping, or having other chores to do, they should give themselves plenty of time and not rush their movements or pace.
Seniors are also recommended to carry their cell phones while they are out to call in case of any emergency. They can also opt to carry a wearable Intouch On-the-MOVE device for added security and peace of mind.
Focus On Strengthening Muscle & Improving Balance
Muscle weakness is one of the leading factors for falls. Seniors are recommended to learn or partake in Thai Chi, hatha yoga, leg raises, toe raises, and other home and outdoor exercises to strengthen their muscles and improve balance.
Such exercises can also help increase confidence in one’s mobility skills which can help overcome the fear of falling and can also aid in recovering from injuries from previous falls.
Walk With A Friend, Family Member, Or Caregiver
Walking with a companion can be a great way for seniors to maintain good health and energy. Even a short walk around the block once a day can make a big difference.
Walking with a friend, family member, or caregiver ensures that there’s always someone around to provide companionship and help in case of an emergency.
Purchase High-Quality Winter Footwear
Winter footwear is essential for seniors that love to spend time outdoors. Make sure they have footwear that is warm, comfortable, breathable, moisture-resistant and offers plenty of traction.
Also, make sure the footwear isn’t too heavy and offers ankle support to prevent feet from twisting in the event of a slip or fall.
Use Grippers When Walking On Snow Or Ice
Seniors can also use grippers that can be attached to any kind of winter boot to provide extra traction on wet and slippery surfaces.
Grippers can be a lifesaver for seniors that love the outdoors and want to remain active despite the weather.
Top Tip: Most walkers and canes are not slip-resistant and they can actually increase the risk of falling when they touch a slick concrete surface. If a senior does use a walker or cane make sure that the ends are equipped with a non-slip rubber grip.
Factors That Increase The Risk Of Winter Falls In Seniors
- Weakness in muscles and limited mobility
- Numbness in the feet
- Side effects of medication
- Changing gait patterns
- Visual impairments
- Winter clothes add more weight and cause imbalance
- Compromised bone health due to poor diet and vitamin D deficiency
Why Are The Risks Of Seniors Falling A Lot Higher In The Winter?
Navigating in snow can be difficult for seniors with mobility issues, muscle weakness, and slow reaction times. Some seniors can also feel disoriented in cold weather, which can cause them to lose their balance and fall.
However, these are not the only reasons why falls tend to be higher in the winter months. The build-up of snow and ice on pathways reduces traction which can make it difficult to maintain grip and balance.
Poor maintenance of lobbies and hallways of buildings can also result in the buildup of sludge. This sludge is brought in by shoes worn by people. When it mixes with melting ice, it makes the surface very slippery.
Snow also creates a barrier that can block building entryways, crosswalks, sidewalks, and pathways that force seniors to take risks to get across.
All of these factors increase the chances of falls and fall-related injuries.
For more information on how to keep seniors safe, healthy, and active, all year round, visit Northwood Intouch or give us a call at (902)-492-3346 or 1-800-461-3346.