Keeping your home and surroundings safe: Preventing falls

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Did you know that falling is the leading cause for injury hospitalization and death? According to the Winnipeg Health Region, it is “the leading cause of injury-related deaths among those who are 65 years old and older and responsible for two-thirds (68%) of all unintentional injury-related deaths in that age group.” Falls are the leading cause of permanent partial and total injury-related disability for Manitobans of any age (Falls a serious health issue for people of all ages, WRHA).

“Falls are the leading cause of permanent partial and total injury-related disability for Manitobans of any age.”

Preventing falls – Older adults

Seniors who have experienced a fall are likely to fall again. It can cause bruises and sprains to more serious injuries like fractures, head injuries or dislocations. Most falls happen at home and are caused by slipping or stumbling. To prevent this, follow these eight steps:

Staying on your feet – 8 steps to prevent a fall, Winnipeg in Motion, WRHA

  1. Stay active with balance exercises 15-20 minutes each day (for example: Tai Chi). Start exercising slowly and use support if you need it.
  2. Add another 20-30 minute exercise each day.
  3. Manage your medications – Have your medications reviewed by your doctor, pharmacist or nurse every year. If any medication makes you feel dizzy, light-headed or causes blurred vision, have it reviewed immediately.
  4. Take Vitamin D – Take a daily supplement of 1,000 iu of Vitamin D.
  5. Manage health conditions – Talk to your health care provider for tips on how to stay well and manage your health better.
  6. Wear safe footwear – Make sure your shoes have good support, that they fit well and are secured (well-tied shoelaces or strong velcro). Stick to low heels that have non-slip soles.
  7. Take care of your eyesight – Get your eyes checked every two years and your glasses checked annually. Always wear your glasses.
  8. Identify, remove and report hazards – Keep your home free of clutter or potential hazards:
    • check loose rugs and slippery floors
    • keep building or home entrances dry especially on snowy days
    • all rooms should be well-lit
    • install grab bars in washrooms, rubber mats or flooring in slippery areas
    • have a medical alert device to call for help especially if you live alone

Use this Home Safety Checklist to guide you when identifying risks.

Preventing falls – Young children

Another group likely to fall and get seriously injured are children ages five and below. Babies are prone to fall while learning to roll, crawl and walk. As they grow and explore their surroundings, falls are likely to happen while they are running, climbing and playing.

Preventing falls in newborns
Accidental dropping by a parent or caregiver is the most common reason for babies falling. The following tips will help keep your baby safe:

  1. Don’t carry your baby when tired – Ensure that the new mother is not tired or dizzy from pain medication when handling the baby. Ask for hospital staff for help while in the hospital.
  2. Put the baby in a bassinet or crib – Make sure to put the baby to sleep on his back on the bassinet. Tired parents may fall asleep while holding or feeding the baby.
  3. Check the floor – Be aware of wet floors or clutter on the floor. Wear non slip socks to avoid slipping while carrying the baby.
  4. Slippery when wet – Take extra care at bath time. Wet babies can be slippery. Rinse well and have a dry towel on hand.
  5. Check car seat – Make sure that the baby’s car seat meets all safety standards. Always check if the harness is securely fastened.
  6. Babies can roll over – Don’t put your baby on an adult bed, couch or other furniture. They can roll over and fall. Use a crib, bassinet or playpen.
  7. Secure sling – Ensure that your sling, carrier or wrap is secure. Hold your baby before you bend over.

Playground safety tips
Aside from good hygiene and physical distancing, here are other safety precautions you should observe:

  1. No pushing – Review playground rules with your child. They might have to follow more safety precautions at this time. Remind them not to push and to wait patiently for their turn.
  2. Supervise actively – Whether in your backyard or in a public playground, always watch over young children when they are playing. Children below age five should always be within an arm’s reach when they are climbing or on a swing.
  3. Check CSA label – Playground equipment must have labels that tell you if it is appropriate for your child’s age, height and size. Use this Playground Safety Yes Test as a checklist.
  4. Don’t slide with your child – Never slide with them on your lap. This puts the child at risk for lower leg injuries. Instead, choose a shorter slide recommended for their age and always be close by.
  5. Check the surface – Safe surfacing should be present below play equipment to help cushion falls. Tell your kids not to touch needles, sharp objects and other hazards on the ground or grass.
  6. Wear proper gear – Make sure that they are wearing proper safety gear like helmets or knee pads if they are riding a bike or playing any sport.
  7. Remove possible hazards – Make sure that your child isn’t wearing clothes with strings. These can get caught in play equipment and cause injuries.
  8. Report safety concerns such as broken play equipment and other safety concerns to the city (311 for City of Winnipeg playgrounds), school or the housing manager immediately.

Remember that you’re using the play structures at your own risk. It will be wise to bring your own sanitizing wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizer to protect yourself and your kids.
Article updated June 30, 2020.
Sources: Adapted from Staying on your feet – Taking steps to prevent falls, Injury Prevention Program, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Accessed July 3, 2019.

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Community Resources

For more information on preventing falls, contact Age and Opportunity (A&O).

Download the Take Action to Prevent Falls booklet for more tips.

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