Avoid Falling Inside/Out

Fall Safety

Contributions from Becky Waldron, Director, Rehabilitation Services and Sports Medicine

Watch out for winter falls. While you may not be able to avoid every mishap on the snow or ice, you can take steps to prevent injury due to a fall—inside your home and outside.

Outdoor Safety

  • For the drive to work or school, plan ahead to give yourself sufficient time and plan your route.
  • Wear shoes that provide traction on snow or ice. Avoid plastic or leather soles and do not wear high heels.
  • Walk in designated, shoveled walkways as much as possible.
  • If a walkway is completely covered with ice, try to travel along its grassy edge for traction.
  • When entering buildings, remove snow and water from footwear to prevent wet, slippery conditions indoors.

When given no choice but to walk on ice, try the following:

  • Walk like a duck. It may sound silly, but taking short steps or shuffling gives you greater stability.
  • Bend slightly, walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet as much as possible.
  • Be prepared to fall.
    • If you fall, fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder to avoid using your arms to protect against breakage.
    • Roll with the fall. Try to twist and roll backwards, rather than falling forward.
    • Relax as much as possible when you begin to fall.
    • Bend your back and head forward so you won't slam your head on the pavement as your feet shoot out from under you.
    • Toss the load you are carrying. Protect yourself instead of the objects being carried.

Indoor Fall Prevention Checklist

Take a tour of your home with this checklist in hand and a critical eye. Look for potential fall risks so you can address them and create a safer home.

Floors

  • Have furniture positioned, so your path is clear.
  • Remove any throw rugs or use double-sided tape or a non-slip backing so the rugs won’t slip.
  • Keep floors clear of objects.

Stairs and steps

  • Keep objects off stairs.
  • Fix loose or uneven steps.
  • Install an overhead light at the top and bottom of stairs. Immediately replace burned out bulbs.
  • Have light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs. Consider light switches that glow.
  • Make sure the carpet is firmly attached to every step, or remove the carpet and attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
  • Repair loose handrails or put in new ones that run the entire length of the stairway.

Kitchen

  • Keep things you use often on the lower shelves (about waist level).
  • If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.

Bathrooms

  • Put a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips on the floor of the tub or shower.
  • If you need support when getting in and out of the tub or up from the toilet have grab bars installed.

Bedrooms

  • Place a lamp close to the bed where it’s easy to reach.
  • If the path from your bed to the bathroom is dark, put in a night-light.

More things to prevent a fall

  • Exercise regularly to build strength, balance and coordination.
  • Aim for uniform lighting in each room. Add lighting to dark areas.
  • Hang curtains or shades to reduce glare.
  • Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps to help you see the stair more easily. For example, use light color paint on dark wood.

Exercise may help relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, and improve muscle and bone strength in arthritic joints.