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Preventing Icy Slips & Falls





With the arrival of cold winter weather, older adults should be aware of an increased risk for a fall due to the presence of snow and ice. There is a direct link between cold weather and falls in the elderly. Each year 2.8 million elderly adults are treated for fall related injuries with nearly one third of those incidents requiring hospitalization. Most incidents have resulted in either head injuries or hip fractures. The chances of suffering a fall in the cold weather months will increase over the age of 65 and increase again significantly after the age of 75.

Preventing falls is important, but keeping a social life during the winter is important as well because it prevents the winter blues. Do not let fear of falls keep you from going out for visits and appointments. Continue to go to the doctor, church and spend time with family. Also, remembering to get out to get natural vitamin D prevents a lot of blues as well as health issues. When you choose to go out though, please keep these tips in mind to prevent falls, which can be result in broken hips, wrists, and shoulders.

Part of fall prevention in winter seasons is keeping an eye on the weather as part of your planning process. Paying attention to when it is going to be snowy/icy and when the warmer part of the day is going to be. The brightest part of the day can be difficult for going out when you cannot see from snow-blindness and the ground you are walking on can be even more technical. Bright sunshine can also limit your ability to see black ice.


Ask for help when getting in and out of the car at your own home, especially during the winter months. Plan events when you have someone with better balance for helping navigate the slippery or unsafe paths. Choose the best exit strategy to get to your vehicle. Going in and out of the garage can give you a covered walkway and a clear path free from the elements. Exercise caution when getting in and out of vehicles. Step and do not jump when exiting from vehicles. Consider a handi-bar to hold onto as you enter or exit a car. If you use a walking device, make sure it is ready for you to hold onto as soon as you get out of the vehicle.


If you must walk on the sidewalk, shovel the concrete first and apply ice melt on sidewalks and driveway. Apply ice melt early enough to allow it to work, at least 30-60 minutes before you plan to leave. Create a pathway wide enough to accommodate a walker if necessary. Please make sure the steps have been fully cleared. Use railings when they are present. If one step is too high, consider either a half step to decrease height or grip strips on the steps. Portable ramps also can accommodate grip strips when using a wheelchair during the winter months. The modular ramp installations either inside the garage or outside are a way of preventing falls as well.


Wear appropriate footwear with rubber bottoms to ensure grip. Avoid leather soled shoes or plastic shoes. Wear gloves with a gripping area so you can effectively use a handrail when available. If necessary, consider having a handrail added where appropriate. Dressing warmly but not too bulky will avoid limits of grasping. Gait belts may increase safety by providing something secure to grip on. Avoid carrying items or putting your hands in your pockets so that your hands will be available to quickly reach out for safety. Make sure your loved one is familiar and comfortable using a device such as a cane or walkers outdoors. With a device ensure everyone is taking short steps or shuffling for stability. Bend slightly and walk flat footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible.


Wintertime is slippery. Be prepared to fall. If you do begin to slip, fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder to avoid using your arms and increase the chance of breakage. Roll with the fall and try to twist while rolling backwards rather than falling forward. Relax as much as possible when you begin to fall. Plan ahead by visualizing your steps. Give yourself sufficient time and plan your route to get where you are going so you will not rush. Take the path of least resistance and choose an alternative route whenever possible.


The chances of suffering a fall in the cold weather months will increase over the age of 65 and increase again significantly after the age of 75. There is a direct link between cold weather and falls in the elderly. Snow and ice present a serious danger for anyone venturing outdoors during the winter. With the arrival of cold winter weather, older adults should be aware of an increased risk for a fall.


Live In Place can assist by providing:

- modular ramp or portable ramp in the garage for wheelchair accessibility or fall prevention, to avoid doing steps outside with ice and snow.

- modification of steps in the garage including adding hand railings.

- Installing hand grips strategically to assist with getting in and out of home by providing stability.


REFERENCES: University of Northern Iowa, HealthyAGING, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Senior Directory