It’s no secret that falls are extremely dangerous for seniors. While we want to do everything we can to help our loved ones stay upright, it can be hard to accomplish this task in winter when the ice and snowy weather are working against your best efforts. Iced-over sidewalks and chilly temperatures that make movement even more difficult for seniors can contribute to dangerously high fall rates during winter months.
It may seem overwhelming at first to help prevent your loved one from falling during the winter months, but it can be done. Here are some of our tips to how you can help with fall prevention during cold weather.
One of the easiest ways to prevent falls is to wear the proper footwear during winter. Shoes and boots with good traction that are made especially to perform in cold weather, ice, and snowy conditions are ideal. Other shoes that have flatter treads can invite winter falls.
Make sure you loved one wears their winter footwear anytime they plan to go outside. While it might be easier for them to slip on a pair of summer shoes to grab the mail or make a quick stop, it’s much safer to encourage them to take the time to put on the right footwear.
Dress for the Weather
When muscles get cold they tend to stiffen up, which can make moving around even harder for elderly people than it normally is. Stiff muscles can also contribute to a loss in flexibility and reaction times, which in turn can make falls more common.
Dressing appropriately for the weather and keeping cozy with warm clothing, hats, scarves, and gloves will help muscles stay warm and give your loved one the best possible mobility for moving around outdoors.
Keep Active Indoors
Like dressing warm, keeping active indoors where it is much safer is key to helping muscles stay flexible and joints remain open. Daily movement—as much as a senior can safely do—keeps the body in healthy shape for when it comes time to go walk around outdoors.
Indoor activity can also be a good alternative to an outdoor walk or activity. If you loved one enjoys going outside, encourage them to do their activities indoors. Even if they feel cooped up, remind them that indoors is a much safer place to be for the winter months.
Be Cautious Around Vehicles
One of the places where seniors slip the most is getting in and out of cars and other vehicles. Balance is often difficult when all the weight of a body is placed on one leg. Here are some tips to tell your loved one when moving in and out of vehicles:
Getting in a car— Have a firm grasp on the car with both hands, then gently twist your body so you are partially seated before picking your legs off the ground
Getting out of a car— Twist your body so both legs are out the door and will hit the ground at the same time without one still being stuck facing forward.
Take Your Time
Falls can often happen when seniors are rushing to get places and make a misstep. Going slowly from place to place will take longer, but is ultimately going to be much safer. To help save time, encourage your loved one to start getting ready earlier if they need to go walk outside to ensure that they give themselves plenty of time.
Stay on Cleared Paths Only
Cleared and salted paths and sidewalks are the obvious choice for safety, but make sure that you clearly explain this to your loved one. Remembering not to take shortcuts or walk on uncleared paths may slip a seniors mind, especially if that route is one that take often during warmer weather.
Reminding your loved one to keep an eye on surroundings and be extra watchful to where they are stepping is another major key to keeping their feet under them during the winter. Look out for patches that look “wet” when the temperatures are low— odds are that those are icy patches.
Also be cautious when there is a light dusting of snow covering previously cleared paths and walkways. The snow itself can be slippery, and also could be covering up ice that you can no longer see clearly.
Ask for Help
Encouraging your loved one to ask for help when they need it may be the best step to prevent falls during winter weather. Offer your assistance whenever you can, and ask a friend, family member, or staff member if your loved one lives in a senior living community, to be available for help. Don’t let someone put pride above safety!
It can be scary to think of loved ones falling during the winter months. But being cautious and taking extra steps to ensure safety and prevent falls can help you keep your loved one upright and healthy all winter long.