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Caution: Slippery Falls Ahead

Keeping on your toes can be no easy fete, especially come winter. Find out what can trip you up, leading to sudden falls and unwanted injuries.

Stay Active

Believe it or not, Appy says the only activity proven effective in curbing your risk of falling is Tai Chi. Appy says it's known for helping us build strength and balance. There are numerous activities which can help you achieve these goals, and finding one that you enjoy is a surefire way to decrease your risk of falling.

Use Salt

Snow and ice can create a glare, Binder says, making it more difficult to see. In addition, snow covers cracks and holes so Binder says people need to take more "visual care" to avoid tripping over foreign objects. Shoveling properly to create safe walkways and using ice or wood chips is a no-brainer to decrease your chances of a fall outside.

Know Your Medications

Medications can sometimes cause side effects, namely dizziness, which may increase your chances of falling. "Once a year, have a medical professional -- your doctor or pharmacist --review all of your medications, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, because it's been documented that taking four or more medications can contribute to a fall," Appy says. Keep in mind that if this is a problem for you, you may be able to have your doctor modify your doses, reducing drug use.

Appy also recommends that you track your medications, especially if you find it difficult to remember when and if you've taken your medications yet. This will decrease the likelihood that you will double up on your dose by mistake, causing unwanted side effects.

Good Footwear Is Key

Having good footwear is important. Appy recommends that you wear thin rubber-soled shoes so you can still feel the ground beneath your feet. Shoes that aren't the best choices when it comes to keeping grounded are those with really thick soles or leather-soled shoes that are slippery.

Take Precaution With Ladders

Taking extra precautions to prevent falls during the winter months is especially important come holiday time. For starters, people frequently bring their dusty ladders out of their basements to hang ornaments and decorations or to complete household projects before, say, a holiday party they're hosting. If you're going to be decorating on a ladder, keep in mind the significant number of emergency room visits associated with ladders each year. Take appropriate precautions, especially in terms of how you position the ladder. You also want to avoid leaning over too far, which can offset your balance.

Watch Out for Clutter Magnets

Often entrance halls and stairwells can be magnets for clutter throughout the year, but even more so during the holidays. Try to keep them clear, especially when you have guests over.

Mindfulness Goes a Long Way

Pay attention when you're walking and try to slow down, especially when visibility is poor or when there are a lot of potential hazards. Keep your hands free and be aware of the surface of the floors. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," says Appy, who offered the following tips for home modifications, which can help to insure your safety. These tips are especially helpful for parents.

  • Know when to throw away a throw rug. Throw rugs can contribute to your risk of falling, especially rugs that aren't flat or adhered to the floor. Either remove throw rugs or tape them down with double-sided tape so that your toes don't get stuck under them, causing a nasty spill.
  • Baby gates. If you have small children, an age group prone to falls, you should utilize baby gates. The Home Safety Council recommends that you use baby gates that attach to the walls on both the top and bottom of your stairwell.
  • Get window locks. Unfortunately, little kids fall out of windows sometimes, especially during warmer weather. Get window guards that you can quickly remove, in case of a fire.
  • Make sure your kids have a soft place to fall in playgrounds. Appy says you want to have a soft surface under play areas that is at least 9-12 inches deep (wood mulch or pea gravel). You want the soft surfaces to extend at least 6 feet in all directions so the fall zone is covered.
  • Bathrooms. In the bathroom, another area where people are prone to falls, make sure you wipe down slippery surfaces. Use bathmats and use a mat inside the shower as well. If you don't have grab bars in your shower or tub, consider an installation. The Home Safety Counsel recommends that you get bars installed into the walls, which can hold human weight. People often think they only need grab bars when they age. "Anyone who has fallen in the shower knows it can happen at any age. Even young kids can fall," says Appy. "Although the consequences can be more severe for older individuals."

It can be difficult to raise the issue of falls with a loved one -- such as an older parent, relative or friend -- given the stigma and embarrassment associated with falling. For older adults, installing grab bars and other safety devices may seem unnecessary. If you're worried about bringing up the issue with a loved one, try leading by example. Install these devices first in your own home. "Then you can tell your mom it's her turn. That way it's less stigmatizing," Appy says.


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