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Winter Cautions

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We’ve all heard the awful tale of how Grandma got run over by a reindeer, but did things truly have to turn out so tragic? Regardless of your risk of dodging a reindeer or simply maneuvering around holiday decorations in the home, the CDC says falls are the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. Understandably, these accidents increase significantly during the winter months.

Anyone, including the elderly, may feel depressed and isolated during this time of year as the weather can limit social interaction and time outdoors. Age and other medical conditions can also have impair cognition. So, whether you are looking to be safer yourself or seeking support for a loved one, there are many precautions you can take this winter.

One winter-related hazard is slipping on ice. Black ice can be particularly difficult to spot. Plan ahead and use shoes that are meant for the outdoors with rubber soles.  If stability is a potential issue, exercise caution by using handrails and assistive devices.. The rubber grips on the tread of assistive devices become worn over time, no longer functioning as intended and should be replaced periodically. It is also beneficial to take note of windy days. So often, this invisible threat can literally sweep you off your feet. If available, use automatic handicap accessible doors. Note that car and screen doors can also blow shut and cause injuries.

Wearing an emergency alert button or keeping a cell phone with you can make a big difference in case of a fall. We can’t prevent all falls, but these alert buttons have helped many people in scary situations and continue to provide a sense of security for the wearer, as well as peace of mind for loved ones.

Maintaining an active lifestyle becomes more challenging in the winter for obvious reasons. Don’t overlook exercising indoors this winter. Recumbent stationary bikes, fitness videos and personalized exercise routines provided by a healthcare professional are all excellent options.. If you or a loved one may benefit from strengthening or balance interventions, Physical Therapy may have the answers you are looking for. Always consult your physician before beginning a new regimen.

Loved ones and friends are excellent resources. They can help spot potential hazards such as small area rugs, electrical cords, and excess clutter. Moving hard to reach items to more accessible locations and identifying rooms or hallways where additional lighting or grab bars may be needed can make a huge difference. Winter tasks such as shoveling snow, salting walkways or putting up and taking down holiday decorations can be overly strenuous activities for older people. Don’t be shy if you need to ask for help with tasks such as these. As the temperature drops, the risk of a fall increases, so avoid your own version of the tragic story of Grandma got run over by a reindeer, and stay safe this winter!

From your friends in the Physical Therapy Department at HRMC.