Helpful tips to prevent slips, trips and falls
With Dr. Richard Louis
Injury Prevention Coordinator, NB Trauma Program
Falls have been identified as the leading cause of injury across Canada. Everyone is at risk for falls, from young children who desire to climb on household furniture to seniors who simply want to go for a walk outside during the winter months. In New Brunswick, this explains why over half (55%) of all hospitalizations are due to injury.
As you grow older, the risk of injury increases. According to New Brunswick data, there was a 26% increase in the number of seniors who were hospitalized due to falls from 2010 to 2015. This accounts for approximately 85% of injury-related hospitalizations among seniors.
The good news is that most injuries are preventable. Here are some helpful tips to help prevent slips, trips and falls.
Keep active. Participation in regular physical activity can improve your health and wellness. It can also help to reduce the risk of falls. If you are unsure of where to start, ask your health care provider about what type of activities would be best for you.
Watch your step. Falls are often due to hazards that are easy to overlook. Watch out for ice, uneven surfaces, sidewalk cracks, unmarked curbs and slopes when walking. To help maintain your balance and reduce your risk of injury if a fall occurs, avoid keeping your hands in your pockets.
Keep your home clutter-free. You might be surprised to learn that New Brunswick data shows that most falls happen indoors during the winter months. Improve cluttered areas in your home and look out for common household items that could present a tripping hazard such as area rugs or extension cords.
Wear the right clothes. If possible, plan ahead for activities and be sure to have the appropriate clothing and footwear on hand. Wear shoes that support your feet, cover your heel, and have a good grip. For warmth and stability during cold months, choose light-weight, well-insulated and waterproof boots with a thick, non-slip tread sole.
Avoid risky behaviour. Falls often occur during risky activities such as climbing an unstable ladder or carrying heavy loads while walking on a slippery surface. Alcohol and drug use can also increase the risk of falls by altering a person's judgment and mobility and interfering with certain prescription medicines.
Be diet-conscious. Poor nutrition and dehydration can lead to physical weakness, illness and fatigue all of which place us at higher risk for falling. Taking a vitamin D supplement and consuming the recommended amount of calcium each day can help to increase your bone and muscle strength. In turn, this could reduce your risk of fractures after a fall.
Don't be afraid. Excessive fear and apprehension can lead to a decrease in physical activity which can contribute in turn to muscle weakness and risk of falls. Fear of falling can be reduced by participating in an activity-based, fall-prevention program. Devices such as a cane, walker or grab bar can also help make you feel safer.
For more information about fall prevention, we encourage you to visit the Finding Balance NB website at www.findingbalancenb.ca. We also encourage you to visit the NB Trauma Program website at www.NBTrauma.ca to learn about this and other injury prevention topics.
Some information for this article came from Zoomers on the Go, a resource manual for volunteers working with the fall-prevention program in Saint John.
Handouts available from Richard Louis:
- Anyone can fall - Finding Balance
- Safe winter walking
/media/838475/in_your_community_october_2016.pdf (See Page 16 article on the Zoomers program)