According to Health Canada’s guidance on fall prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians. In fact, 20-30% of seniors experience one or more falls each year. As winter is upon us, so comes the ice and an increased risk of falls. However, falls don’t just occur on icy pavement; 50% of falls causing hospitalization occur at home.
Reducing the risk of falls is important in preventing fractures. 95% of all hip fractures are caused by falls. When a person has osteoporosis, a broken bone does not heal in the same way as a healthy bone and this puts extreme stress on the body as a whole. For people on blood thinners, a fall can lead to bleeding risk which can be life-threatening when hitting the head.
Many factors increase the risk of a fall: poor balance, decreased muscle and bone strength, reduced vision or hearing, and unsafe conditions in and around your home. Exercises that promote muscle strength and balance are excellent ways to reduce falls. Daily walks, Tai Chi, core exercises, and lifting weights are all helpful. Eating a balanced diet that contains protein also helps build muscle and promote strength. Vision and hearing tests are suggested to be sure you have the support needed to see and hear well.
It is also important to look at every room of your house to ensure floor surfaces are clear of clutter to avoid tripping. Bathroom supports including grab bars, shower chairs, and anti-slip surfaces should be in place. Good footwear, even inside the house, provides good stability. Mobility aids (walkers, wheelchairs, etc) can be purchased from authorized dealers where the proper assessment of your needs can be made and government financial assistance offered. Occupational therapists can perform these assessments as well as do home visits to be sure fall risk is minimized.
In the winter ensure ice has been cleared on your walkway. Ice grips can also be added to the bottom canes and to footwear as additional protection from falls.
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Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.
Kunal Bhatt, RPh, PharmD, HBSc is a staff pharmacist for Charlton Health. As a 2020 PharmD graduate from the University of Toronto, Kunal possesses a diverse range of experiences from working in hospital and community pharmacy settings. Since January 2021, Kunal was heavily invested in contributing to the efforts against COVID-19 by administering upwards of 5000 COVID-19 vaccines at William Osler Health System’s vaccination clinics.