If you have an elderly loved one who will be spending the winter in a part of the country that typically sees significant snow and ice, there are steps to take that can help keep your loved one safe. As winter is the number one season for seniors suffering at-home slip and fall accidents, and as many of them do not (or cannot) prepare themselves for wintry weather, here are ten ways you can help keep your loved one safe this winter:
- Make sure your loved one has safe winter footwear: Slip-resistant, non-skid materials on the soles of shoes/boots can prevent many slips and falls. If your loved one lacks the proper footwear or only has a rather worn down pair, buy him/her some safe winter shoes and ask that your gift be worn whenever venturing outside where snow/ice is present.
- Ensure outdoor walking areas are solid structurally: Scan the paths that your loved one will traverse when outside: from the front door to the driveway, along the adjacent sidewalk, and on the way to the mailbox. Check the steps as well. If there is loose concrete or anything in need of repair, get it repaired before winter.
- Install hand railings wherever helpful: Along steps and walkways where it seems appropriate, put up handrails that can be leaned on and used to better keep one's balance.
- Install outdoor lights with sensors: A path that is well lit is much less likely to be tripped or slipped on. Therefore, make sure exterior-grade light fixtures are positioned to shed light generously over walking areas. It is also best if the lights are sensor-activated so your loved one need not worry about remembering to turn the lights on/off.
- Arrange for the driveway, entryway, and walkways to be kept snow/ice free: If your loved one cannot safely shovel or snow blow pertinent areas, find someone who can do it for them (or be that person yourself). Also arrange to melt snow and prevent black ice formation. Deicers can help, but if possible, consider investing in snow-melting mats that prevent snow-melt from refreezing.
- Put absorbent welcome mats both inside/outside each entry point: Snow melting off of shoes and puddling on non-carpeted floors can also be a slip-and-fall hazard.
- Make an effort to keep your loved one's winter diet healthy: Unable to easily go out and buy groceries, it is easy for wintertime nutrition to plummet for home-bound seniors. A well balanced diet will keep them strong and less likely to fall.
- Encourage your loved one to stay active: Indoor exercise equipment or even just an exercise mat and a fitness video can help seniors stay active and strong, again, making a fall less likely.
- Keep in constant contact: Always make sure your loved one can contact you by phone or online if needed. Also keep them in touch with other friends and family members and try to have a neighbor check in on them physically once a day.
- Get a life alert system: There are now many emergency "life alert" systems to choose from, any of which can get medical attention to your loved one as quickly as possible should a slip and fall actually occur.
Taking a little time and effort to plan how to prevent slip and fall accidents for the senior citizen in your life will make his/her winter significantly safer.
Many seniors fall during winter and shatter hip bones or fracture other weight-bearing bones and are seriously affected for years to come. It is even possible for a fall accident to be fatal. Thus, anything you can do to prevent a fall or minimize the severity of one is well worth doing.