Every year, one in three seniors in British Columbia over the age of 65 experience at least one fall – the most common cause of injury among British Columbian seniors and one of the main reasons why seniors lose their independence. Nearly 40 percent of fall-related hospitalizations involve a hip fracture.
Winter conditions are well known to increase the likelihood of experiencing a fall due to ice and snow. According to the Canadian Institute of Health, approximately 70 percent of bad falls happen between January and March in any given year. Often, falls happen due to factors that can be prevented. It is important for senior living facilities to help residents stay safe during the winter.
First, all risks should be assessed. A facility should ensure to keep their walkways shovelled and cleared of snow and ice. Railings should be kept structurally sound and sturdy so as to not make an unexpected fall even worse. Salt should be kept on hand and kept indoors wherever possible, many falls happen on the journey out to the garage to get the salt! Additionally, a home should be offering help to all senior with walking on potentially slippery walkways or parking lots.
Additionally, a home should be encouraging of a their residents to help avoid falls by:
• Wearing shoes and boots with appropriate traction;
• Slowing down when walking outside during winter;
• Staying connected – seniors should let their facility know where they are going and when to expect them back, as well as keeping a cellphone with them in case of emergency;
• Supplementing with vitamin D and calcium, which has been shown to play an important role in muscle strength and bone health; and
• Staying active. A strong body is one of the first steps in keeping yourself safe in slippery winter conditions.
Because of the high risk factor for seniors falling in the winter’s icy conditions, it is important for a senior care facility to take special precautions during the winter months to ensure the safety of their residents. A facility should have a winter care plan in place to encourage safe travels for their residents and to have a proper plan in place in case of emergency.