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Falls the No. 1 reason for injury hospitalizations among older adults

Falls the No. 1 reason for injury hospitalizations among older adults

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2009

It can happen in the blink of an eye.

An elderly man slips on a patch of ice on his way home from the store. A woman trips on a throw rug in the hallway as she makes her way to the kitchen.

Falls can occur anytime, anywhere, often with devastating consequences. Consider the numbers. An estimated 30,000 adults 65 years of age or older in Winnipeg will take a tumble this year. Of those, about 2,000 will have to be hospitalized because of their injuries. In fact, falls are the No. 1 reason for injury hospitalizations in this age group, according to Wendy French, Injury Prevention Coordinator for IMPACT, the Winnipeg Health Region's injury prevention program. And those injured often remain in hospital for a very long time.

Clearly, falls pose a serious problem, and not just in winter. Statistics show that injuries from falls occur fairly evenly throughout the year. The snow and ice of winter may be hazardous, but so is that pile of books by the doorway or that puddle of water in the bathroom.

"Falls can happen anywhere, anytime, so it's important to stay in the moment and pay attention," says French. "Recognize your limits and ask for help when needed."

While anyone can be injured in a fall, statistics show older adults are most at risk. "People over 65 are nine times more likely to be injured," French says.

Falls Prevention Tips

Broken bones, a fractured hip, or a serious head trauma can seriously undermine a person's quality of life. But the goods news is that falls can be prevented. Here are some falls-prevention tips:

  1. Wear good-fitting footwear with non-slip soles, good support, grip and traction.
  2. Consider wearing snow cleats or ice grippers when walking in winter weather conditions. Be sure to remove ice grippers when coming inside.
  3. When venturing out, be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to cracks in the sidewalks, potholes, ice and snow, and any other hazard that may be in your path.
  4. Keep walkways and steps clear of ice and snow. If you can't manage it yourself, ask for help.
  5. Report ice or any hazardous conditions on roads or sidewalks to 311.
  6. Have a pharmacist review your medications every six months to ensure dosages are correct.
  7. Night lights are a good idea; falls can happen easily in the dark.
  8. Wear your glasses to make sure you have a clear view of hazards or obstacles.
  9. Get rid of hazards around the home, like scatter rugs.
  10. Install handrails on both sides of the stairs and clear away obstacles that you can trip over, like piles of books or newspapers.
  11. When weather conditions are risky - icy roads, lots of snow or wind - consider cancelling unnecessary appointments, and staying indoors. Ask someone to take you to crucial appointments if necessary.
  12. Exercise regularly to maintain good balance and strength. Older adults can call the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults at 632-3947 to request a free exercise DVD.

Source: Winnipeg Health Region

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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