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SPOTLIGHT: Winter is coming… prevent slips, trips, and falls

SPOTLIGHT: Winter is coming… prevent slips, trips, and falls

NOVEMBER 2022

Slips, trips, and falls can increase as we age, and unfortunately, injuries can be severe. The 2017 Census of Agriculture reported that the average age of farmers is nearly 58. Combined with the risks associated with this work, injuries can occur more frequently. Slips, trips, and falls can happen year-round for various reasons, including ice and snow, dust, uneven or cluttered walkways, ladders, and more. Falls threaten older adults’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.

With winter snow and ice on the horizon, it is an excellent time to review why falls happen in older adults and what prevention methods to consider.

The National Institute on Aging shares many reasons older adults experience falls:

  • Your eyesight, hearing, and reflexes might be less sharp.
  • Certain conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or problems with your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels, can affect your balance and lead to a fall.
  • Conditions that cause rushed movement to the bathroom, such as incontinence, may also increase the chance of falling.
  • Older adults with mild cognitive impairment or certain types of dementia are at higher risk of falling.
  • Foot problems that cause pain, and unsafe footwear, such as backless shoes or high heels, can also increase your risk of falling.
  • Some medications can increase a person’s risk of falling because they cause side effects such as dizziness or confusion. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to fall.

Other risk factors for falling include:

  • age-related loss of muscle mass
  • problems with balance and gait
  • blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting


SIX EASY STEPS

Jane Strommen, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Gerontology Specialist, offers six easy steps to help you reduce your risk:

  • Find a good balance and exercise program that builds balance, strength, and flexibility.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider and ask for an assessment of your risk of falling.
  • Review your medications with your pharmacist or doctor. Make sure side effects aren’t increasing your risk of falling.
  • Get your vision checked annually and update your eyeglasses as needed.
  • Keep your home safe. Increase lighting, remove tripping hazards, install grab bars, and make stairs safe.
  • Assess your footwear for safety. Look for supportive shoes, a good fit, a sole that grips, and a heel that is stable and grips.

UMASH RESOURCES

Looking for more information to stay safe and healthy as you age? Check out UMASH’s response to aging on the farm and occupational health resources: