Winter months can be a beautiful time of year. They are filled with snow days, cheerful holidays, and cozy nights indoors. However, winter can also be a dangerous time for seniors because they are at higher risk for illness or injury — including falls! Harsh weather conditions and higher risk of illnesses can be contributing factors to senior falls. However, many factors could be within the walls of a senior’s wall. In this post, we will outline some of the reasons seniors may experience falls in the winter along with some tips on how you can prevent these falls and help your aging loved ones remain healthy, happy, and at home!
Icy Sidewalks and Streets
Cold weather and storms can lead to icy surfaces, which can be fall hazards in the winter for individuals of all ages. Seniors, in particular, are prone to fall in these conditions because our balance and coordination decreases as we get older. Ice can form in areas where seniors need to walk — like their driveway, the parking lot at their doctor’s office, or the sidewalk by the mailbox — making these locations hazardous for seniors.
To help seniors avoid falling on slick surfaces while outside their own home, there are a few things you can do.
· Make sure that your loved one is wearing comfortable shoes that have good traction. Anti-slip shoes can help grip the slick ground better than other shoes, preventing falls. Try good boots or shoes with rough-textured soles. But make sure they are the right fit! Shoes that don’t fit right can also cause seniors to trip and fall.
· If your loved one uses a cane or walker, make sure you put rubber tips on the bottom. These tips can help the devices grip the ground better.
· Help your loved one clean their shoes before going indoors. Ice and snow can stick to the bottom of shoes and even freeze, causing them to become a fall hazard in the home. Plus, the ice or snow could melt indoors, leaving puddles of water behind, which can also cause a fall. Consider putting a rug inside each exterior door that can absorb extra water. But make sure the rugs have a non-slip back so that they don’t become a fall hazard themselves.
Short winter days mean less natural sunlight in the home. Sufficient lighting is key to senior home safety. If a senior can’t see where they are walking, they are more likely to stumble and fall over something in their path — even if they have walked around the corners of their homes for years! Small objects on the floor or even furniture that is askew can become dangerous fall culprits.
You can improve the visibility in your home by considering the following tips.
· Add lamps to dim areas of the home. Lamps can provide the extra visibility that seniors need.
· Draw back the curtains to ensure that natural light can enter the room during the day.
· Consider adding more contrast to areas of the home with poor lighting. For example, if the floors are dark, paint the walls a lighter color. A lighter color can also help increase the amount of light in a room.
· Install nightlights in hallways and in bathrooms. These areas are traversed frequently and need to have proper lighting.
· Swap out the light bulbs if they feel dim. There are many different color temperatures for light bulbs, so choose an option that provides optimal visibility in your loved one’s home. You might also want to go with an LED option because they are more energy efficient.
Want to address more than just lighting in your home? Prevent falls all year long by reviewing our FREE Home Safety Assessment.
Dehydration While you might worry about dehydration in hot summer months, it might not occur to you in the winter. However, many people naturally drink less water in the winter simply because it’s not hot outside and they don’t feel as thirsty. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, which could cause a fall.
It’s easy to prevent dehydration, however. Just make sure your loved one is drinking enough fluid throughout the day. With yummy options like hot chocolate, flavorful teas, and hot coffee, there should be something for any senior!
Because people spend more time indoors in the winter, it’s easier for illness and disease to spread. Seniors may get the flu or other illnesses that may require them to take medications. And many seniors will have a regular medication regimen to follow anyway. Taking the wrong medications or taking the right medications in the wrong dosages can be dangerous — even fatal. Some medications also have side effects, like dizziness or fatigue, that can lead to falls.
To help seniors stay on track with their medications, try the following.
· Review your loved one’s list of medication with their doctor. This can help the doctor identify medications that might not react well when paired together in the same treatment plan, helping with fall prevention.
· Consider hiring a quality home care service. Caregivers can provide medication reminders to help your aging loved one take right medication at the right time and in the right amount. This can help avoid complications.
· Caregivers can also monitor symptoms and look for any signs of worsening illness or progression of disease. Some symptoms may put your loved one at a higher risk of falls. However, caregivers can address these symptoms as needed and help keep seniors safe at home.
While the home may seem cozy during cold days, it can actually contain fall hazards that can be dangerous to seniors. However, these hazards can easily be addressed with proper precautions and care. We hope that you and your family can use these tips to keep aging loved ones healthy, happy, and at home.
For additional questions on how to help seniors avoid falls at any time of year, review our Fall Risk Cheat Sheet. It provides additional fall risk factors at home to help you deal with the difficulties that come with aging.