With the recent freezing rain and recurrent freezing/thawing pattern, Mother Nature certainly has made getting around challenging. The biggest concern on many clients’ minds…FALLS! While people of all ages are at risk for falls, 1/3 of community dwelling seniors will experience a fall every year. Falls can happen for a multitude of reasons, but winter weather can make us all mindful of the risks. We all think of the negative physical consequences that falls can have, but they can also affect us psychologically. Falls can cause us to become fearful or anxious and limit our activities and social interactions. The good news is that there are many things we can do to avoid falls in the first place and prevent them from happening again!
There are 2 types of factors that can predispose people to falls. Intrinsic factors may be things like age, muscle weakness, poor balance, decreased vision and medical conditions (arthritis, neurological conditions, blood pressure). Extrinsic factors can be thought of as things in your environment that may be modifiable such as footwear, lighting, cluttered living spaces and the need for assistive devices.
Perceptions regarding fall education can be mixed. People are often more receptive when information is focused on things they can improve such as their strength, balance and reaction times. Falls prevention classes, physiotherapy-directed exercises and activities like Tai Chi and Yoga are great ways to improve your physical well being and lessen your fall risk. And while it may seem like common sense, having a look at your home and work environment isn’t a bad idea either. Ensure adequate lighting at night time and near stairs, eliminate or tape down slip rugs and get rid of clutter that may be tripped over.
Winter poses its own risks. We all want to maintain our normal everyday activities regardless of what weather gets thrown at us. Be aware of the weather before heading out and wear footwear with good gripping tread. If you use a cane, you can get ice pick attachments often at your local pharmacy. Ensure that your home and sidewalks are cleared and salted not only for you, but for those around you as well.
Don’t let a fall get the better of you this winter! Accidents happen, but If you feel like you are at risk, please look at the things that you can change and control. If you need advice on how to improve your strength and balance, are experiencing anxiety about falls or are recovering from a fall related injury, please contact your Physician or local Physiotherapist.
Remember to live balanced, live well and be you at your PRIME.
Heather Ritchie M.Sc.PT., B.Sc. Kin., Dip Manip. PT, FCAMPT