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Stay on Your Feet and Prevent Falls this Winter

Writer / Dr. Kevin Sonn, orthopedic surgeon at IU Health Saxony Hospital’s Hip and Knee Center

According to the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) falls in the United States, making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group. With winter in full swing, everyday outside tasks may seem daunting because it is easy to slip on the icy sidewalks or snow-covered ground. Especially for older adults, falls can lead to broken bones in the wrist, arm, ankle or hip, and can lead to required home stays as a result of injury or even death.

Be cautious and patient.

Life is busy and things need to get done. However, being in a hurry and scrambling to get from one place to another in unideal weather conditions can lead to slip and fall accidents and potentially breaking a hip. Plan out your schedule wisely to allow for extra time when you are outside getting from one place to another.

Wear the appropriate shoes.

During winter, the sidewalks and parking lots are frozen and covered with ice. To prevent falling when getting in and out of your car, wear shoes with good traction. 

Keep your walkways clear.

Maintain your home during the winter season by shoveling your driveway and sidewalks to clear the path for safe walking. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a family member or friend when needed. Avoid walking outside in the dark, but if you need to do so, make sure the area is well lit. 

Dress warm.

Protect yourself from the cold weather by layering up. This will keep your muscles relaxed instead of tense from the harsh winter. Several layers can also pad a potential fall.

Keep your cell phone on you.

In case you do fall and injure yourself, keep your cell phone on you so you can contact someone for help.

Get extra help for walking.

If you’re having trouble walking consistently, a physical therapist can create an exercise plan to help improve strength, balance and gait. If necessary, the physical therapist can also recommend a walker or cane. If you’ve had long-term pain in your hip or knee that’s affecting your daily life and feel you’ve exhausted conservative measures, it may be time to speak with a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon.  

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