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

Of the 20%-30% of Canadian seniors who fall each year, most of them are likely to fall again. Falls can cause injuries from bruises and sprains to more serious ones like fractures, head injuries or dislocations. Most falls happen at home and are caused by slipping or stumbling. This is why it is essential to keep your home and surroundings free from hazards that increase this risk. It also outlines the importance of maintaining bone health which requires a healthy diet and exercise.

Follow these eight steps to prevent falls from 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 conditions 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 like loose rugs and slippery floors, as well as snowy or wet entrances. All rooms should be well-lit. Install grab bars in washrooms, rubber mats or flooring in slippery areas and 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 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

  1. Supervise actively – Always watch over and supervise young children when they are playing whether in your backyard or in a public playground. Children below age five should always be within an arm’s reach when they are climbing or on a swing.
  2. 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.
  3. Don’t slide with your child – Never slide with your small child on your lap. This puts the child at risk for lower leg injuries. Instead, choose a shorter slide recommended for the child’s age and always supervise.
  4. Check the surface – Safe surfacing should be present around play equipment to help cushion falls.
  5. Wear proper gear – If they are riding a bike, swimming, or playing any sport, make sure that they are wearing proper safety gear like helmets or goggles and swim vest.
  6. No pushing – Review playground rules with your child. Remind them not to push, ask them to wait patiently for their turn and not to touch needles, sharp objects and other hazards on the ground or grass if they see them.
  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.

 
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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