Fall Prevention for Seniors During an Ohio Winter

Dear Tacy:

My mother moved back to the Columbus area this summer after having spent the past 9 years living in Florida. Now she is close to my wife and me so we can help her out when she needs it.

Since it’s been so long since she’s had to battle ice and snow, we are trying to plan ahead and determine what we can do to keep her safe. She is a walker and plans to continue walking as much as the weather will permit this winter.

Do you have any tips we can use to help prevent her from falling?

Darren

Dear Darren:

It sounds like your mom has a big adjustment to make if she is used to those sunny, Florida winters!

But you are right to worry about falls among central Ohio seniors. They continue to be the leading cause of disability in older adults, and one of the top ten reasons seniors end up in the emergency department of a local hospital.

Preventing Falls in Columbus Area Seniors

Taking a proactive approach can definitely decrease her risk. Here are a few suggestions for doing so:

  • Since she lived in Florida, she might not have the appropriate winter footwear. Make sure she has boots and shoes with good tread so she can get traction on snowy sidewalks and drives.
  • Enlist the help of a snow removal company to keep her sidewalks and driveway cleared if you aren’t able to. It’s dangerous for older adults to try to manage this task on their own.
  • Consider investing in a treadmill for her to use on days when the weather is just too bad. Walking is a great way to age successfully, but central Ohio winters often make doing so outdoors more challenging.
  • Take time to review her medication list for side effects that might cause dizziness. It is an often overlooked cause of falls among seniors.
  • Have a plan in place for helping to get groceries to her, as well as for getting her trash taken out before the worst of the snow flies. Doing so will allow her to stay safe inside her home when the winter winds blow.

I think it might also be helpful to speak with her primary care physician about ordering a home safety assessment and a balance test. A physical therapist can conduct both of these to identify any potential problems.

I hope this information is helpful, Darren. Best of luck to you as you help your mother transition into her new home!

Tacy Bailey, Rehabilitation Manager