Winter slips, trips and falls are an especially important issue for older people.
Slips, Trips & Falls
Slips, trips and falls are the most common types of accident in life generally and, thankfully, the consequences of many falls on snow or ice are simply minor bumps and bruises.
In previous years, however, thousands of people have been admitted to hospital after suffering more serious injuries after falls during wintry weather. Figures from the Hospital Episode Statistics for England show there were 2,919 admissions to hospital in 2014/15 as a result of people falling over on snow or ice.
Beating the Snow & Ice
During times when pavements and footpaths are covered in snow/ice:
- Wear sturdy footwear, with a good grip – you can always change into other footwear when you have reached your destination
- If you’ve got Nordic walking poles (or similar), use them
- Take it slowly and allow yourself extra time to get from A to B, so you don’t find yourself having to make a last minute dash to get to the bus etc.
- Keep an eye on what is underfoot. Some places will remain icy for longer than others (e.g. places that do not get the sun)
- If you have neighbours who are elderly/disabled/new mums etc. offer to pop to the shops for them
- If councils have provided grit bins so people can treat public areas not included on the usual gritter route, use them – but don’t remove vast quantities for your own personal use.
- Remember – as well as slips and trips on pavements and in public places, many people fall over on their own footpaths and driveways. Take care in these places too.
Ice and snow advice for older people
The consequences of a fall can be more serious for older people. RoSPA has special tips for them to help avoid falling in slippery conditions:
- Try to minimise the need to go out. Ask friends or neighbours to shop for you or take you to where you need to go
- If you do decide to go out when there’s snow and ice about, take time to think what you can do to reduce the risk of a fall
- Where possible, plan a safe route from your home to where you are going, so as to avoid slopes, steps and areas that have not been cleared or gritted
- Don’t take short cuts through areas where the slipping hazards are greater
- Ask a friend or neighbour to clear a safe path from your front door
- Wear proper footwear for better traction on slippery surfaces. Consider fitting anti-slip crampons
- Consider using a stick or better still, a walking pole and take slow, small steps. Try not to hurry and give yourself more time to get from A to B so you do not rush
- Use rails or other stable objects that you can hold on to
- If possible, wear extra layers to protect the more vulnerable parts of your body like your head, neck and spine if you do fall
- Wipe your feet well when entering buildings
- In public places, always report unsafe conditions so other people do not get hurt
Sources of Support
NHS Choices: Hundreds of health conditions explained at NHS Choices your health, your choices. Website: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Falls/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Age UK: Age UK is the UK’s largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. Website: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/services-and-practice/health-and-wellbeing/falls-prevention-resources/
Falls and Fractures Alliance: An alliance between Age UK and the National Osteoporosis Society working together to achieve the common goals of preventing falls and fractures.