COLUMBUS - Ohio's official groundhog meteorologist, Buckeye Chuck, may not have seen his shadow yesterday, predicting an early arrival for spring weather, but that doesn't mean that winter is done with us just yet. Forecasters warn that the artic temperatures of January may give way to significant snowfalls and ice in February. Slippery conditions can lead to a fall, which for many older adults, can be a life-changing event. Falls are the leading cause of injuries-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths for older Ohioans.
Falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented. The STEADY U Ohio initiative offers simple steps you can take to ensure that wintry conditions don't send you slipping and tripping:
- Bundle up to stay warm but make sure you can see in all directions and move easily and freely.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots with treads, even if you're just going out to get the newspaper.
- Wear sunglasses to reduce glare from the sun and snow and help you see where you are walking.
- Do some light stretching before you venture out.
- Carry a small bag of salt, sand or kitty litter to sprinkle in front of you for traction on icy paths.
- If you must walk on icy surfaces, slow down, shorten your stride, and walk with your feet pointed out slightly and knees gently bent to improve traction and balance.
- Snow can hide curbs and uneven surfaces. If you can't see where your foot will land, find another way.
- Replace worn rubber tips on canes, walkers and crutches. Ask a mobility equipment dealer about winter canes or cleats you can add to existing equipment.
- Dry off shoes, canes, crutches and walkers as soon as you get indoors.
- Carry a cleaning cloth and stop to clean your glasses if they fog up.
- If you are going out alone, carry a cell phone; know who you will call if you fall, and make sure that person knows what to do if you call.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can affect your balance as well as how your body responds to medication.
- Ask your doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises that can help you maintain strength and balance when you can't venture out.
- Ask your post office, newspaper and garbage collector about service options when conditions are bad.
- When in doubt, don't risk it. Ask for help if you don't feel safe doing something.
Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov and follow SteadyUOhio on Facebook and Twitter for more falls prevention tips and resources. Your area agency on aging also can help you connect to services and resources like minor home modifications and "A Matter of Balance" workshops. Call 1-866-243-5678 for the agency serving you.
About STEADY U Ohio - Falls are an epidemic among our elders and are the number one cause of injuries leading to ER visits, hospital stays and deaths in Ohioans age 65-plus. STEADY U Ohio is a comprehensive falls prevention initiative led by Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Aging, and supported by Ohio government and state business partners to strengthen existing falls prevention activities, identify opportunities for new initiatives and coordinate a statewide educational campaign to bring falls prevention to the forefront of planning for individuals, families, health care providers, business and community leaders and all Ohioans. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.
About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that Ohio is on the leading edge of innovation in responding to the growing and changing aging population. We work with state agencies, area agencies on aging and other local partners to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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