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Lifestyles

February 4, 2012

From the Office: Take steps to make wintertime falls less likely

Cold weather can be tough on everyone, but it is particularly tough for the older population.

The snow looks pretty, but winter can be a scary season due to increased chances of falling on snow or ice.

But there are a few things you can do to help prevent falls besides being homebound or packing up and moving to warmer climate.

Footwear

Take a moment to look at your shoes and boots.

Are they worn smooth? If you can answer "yes" to this question, then it is time to purchase a new pair.

Shoes with better traction will grip the ground better; you might want to avoid dress shoes as they tend to be quite slippery.

Remember to wear proper foot wear for the winter, which should include winter boots or similar winter shoes.

Railing Check

If you have stairs with a railing leading up to the entrance of your home, have your railing checked to make sure it is sturdy.

You may ask yourself this question would it hold you if you were to slip? Could the railing catch you?

Shovel and Salt

Keep your shovel and salt in your home so it is available for you to use. What good is your shovel and salt when it is in your garage away from your home and you have to walk through the snow and ice to get to them?

Cellphone or Emergency Response System

Yes, the older population should have and carry a cellphone. If you do not have a cellphone you may want to consider getting an emergency response system installed. One may slip and fall; it can sometimes be difficult in getting back up. Carrying your cellphone or wearing an emergency response system personal help button, can give you peace of mind, knowing that you can call for assistance.

Modification of Cane

If you need a cane to assist you with walking, you can modify your cane by adding a metal grip to the bottom of your cane. The metal grip will help increase stability. In addition, you may want to take a look at the handle grip. If it is worn, take a moment to replace it, this will help you maintain your balance especially if you walk on patches of snow or ice.

Get Help

The weather can change in a matter of a few minutes. If you are walking out of a restaurant, shopping mall, church, etc. and the parking lot has turned into an ice rink, you should ask for a steady arm to help guide you. This could be a friend, a family member, employee or even a passerby walking in your direction. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

What's your plan?

During the winter months you need to think about where you are going and ask yourself, "If I were to fall, what would I do? Did I remember my cellphone? If I'm close to my home, do I have my personal emergency response help button on me?"

Slow Down

When running behind scheduled you may end up hurrying and sometimes pushing the limits of what you can handle. Allow extra time getting to your appointments, especially in inclement weather. If you are a little late it's better than rushing and causing a fall and a potentially serious injury.

Leg Strengthening

What can you do to help strengthen your leg muscles so you can catch yourself before you hit the ground? Exercising your leg muscles regularly should be done to keep them strong.

A few simple exercises you can do help strengthen your leg muscles would be to walk up and down the stairs repeatedly and/or getting up out of a chair. The best thing to strengthen your legs is use them other wise you will loose them.

Remember falls can affect seniors in many ways. If a senior falls and is injured, this can limit their confidence and ability to live independently.

My hope for each senior after reviewing these winter safety tips is that they are able to reduce if not avoid their chances of any falls.

Wayne L. Shepard is director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.

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