As fall foliage in Ohio comes into full color, STEADY U Ohio, the state’s comprehensive older adult falls prevention initiative, reminds all Ohioans that, while leaves are supposed to fall, people aren’t. Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented by knowing the risk factors and making simple changes to your home, health and habits to reduce or eliminate them.
Here are some tips to prevent falls:
✱ Leaves, branches and other debris from trees can make walkways slippery or hide tripping hazards like uneven surfaces, edges and steps. Keep walkways clean, and if the surface isn’t clear and flat, pick another path.
✱ If winterizing a home means cleaning gutters, changing light bulbs or other tasks that require your loved ones to get up high, ensure they are using a step ladder or a step stool with a handle, and maintain three points of contact (two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot) at all times. They shouldn’t climb on chairs or other furniture that was not designed for that purpose.
✱ Shorter days mean less direct sunlight and less sunlight overall, thus, there may be a need for more light to get around a home safely. Have your loved ones invest in extra lamps, nightlights and exterior pathway lights to ensure they can always see where they are walking, especially around doorways and stairs. Use the highest-wattage bulbs that are recommended for fixtures.
✱ Don’t let cooler weather and shorter days limit their activity. Exercise that builds and maintains strength and balance is important to prevent falls year-round. Have your loved ones ask their doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises that can help them maintain strength and balance when they can’t venture out.
✱ Remind them to keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) free of dirt and mud by drying them off immediately upon coming in from wet conditions. Remember, wet shoes are just as dangerous as wet floors.
✱ If your loved ones’ autumn plans include attending one of Ohio’s great fall fairs and festivals, have them stick to paved surfaces as much as possible while watching for trash, hoses and cables on walkways. Also, drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated and consider attending at off-peak times, when the crowds are lighter.