Ouch! Falls can be physically painful and mentally hard to forget. (Yes, I still recall a spill I took in an airport parking lot years ago in front of “an audience.”) Unfortunately, the risk of falls greatly increase in the wintertime when severe weather is commonplace. Slick walkways covered in snow or invisible black ice can present walking dangers for pedestrians. Since falls can happen to any of us, it’s vital to take precautions. Here are thirteen tips to avoid falling on your bum over the winter season:
1) Pretreat walkways ahead of a storm to make them less slippery. Since rock salt can cause damage to pavement and chloride-based ice melts are poisonous and harmful to pets, plants, and lawns, it’s optimal to pretreat using environmentally friendly products found on the market. While sand and kitty litter can be used in a pinch to provide better traction, bear in mind that sand can’t absorb moisture, and kitty litter may become sticky and create a big mess. But we thank you, kitties, for being so generous as to share your repository products with us!
2) Wear proper footwear. It’s best to avoid wearing slippery dress shoes and opt for snow boots which offer the following features: best traction, comfort, waterproofness, protection, and insulation for warmth. In the wintertime, a good boot is worth its weight in gold. Cinderella’s glass slippers will simply have to wait for good weather!
3) Look where you’re going. A good number of slip and fall accidents are preventable by simply paying attention to what lies ahead. Always concentrate when walking and keep an eye out for obstacles, such as potholes, ice patches, or cracks in the sidewalk. Also, never text while walking to keep from stumbling into walls, moving traffic, or other giant obstacles! Remember, you never know if someone might drop a banana peel in the snow.
4) When walking a pet, keep them on a short leash for better control. Long leashes can lead to less stability for pet walkers and increase tangles and the pet’s ability to pull hard. Avoid dog walking conundrums such as getting wrapped around a light pole or getting pulled into the opposite direction by keeping a short leash.
5) Change your stride. Taking too big of steps can sometimes throw people off balance. Thus, it’s important to consider the weather conditions as well as your body type and size when choosing the safest stride. You’re not on the runway – so keep your steps natural.
6) Slow down. Though walking is among the safest activities, rushing can add stress and lead to falls. Thus, schedule plenty of time to do things and work hard to manage pressure. Save the running on ice for a stunt person, as it’s a job best reserved for a paid professional.
7) Exercise regularly at home. Weak muscles and some other conditions related to strength can put people at increased risk of accidents overall. Thus, it’s best to keep the body strong and in tip-top shape. Talk to your doctor about exercises you can safely do at home to increase your strength. Leg and core exercises are of particular importance as sturdy legs are essential for safe walking and core exercises improve overall balance. Too bad eating chocolate doesn’t build muscle. Saying that for a friend…
8) Hold handrails. These railings are more than decorative. They are designed to be grasped by the hand to offer safety and support, especially when ascending or descending stairways. For those of you who are risk-takers, do not slide down them!
9) Make sure outdoor areas are well-lit. Being able to see clearly is essential to reducing risk and falls. Thus, in addition to making sure, your outdoor areas are properly lighted, be sure to wear your contacts or glasses if prescribed by a medical professional. Many of us may recall watching the misadventures of Mr. Magoo…
10) Wear your hearing aid if you need one. Even small changes in hearing can throw off one’s balance; thus, it’s important to make sure yours fits and is used properly. EVEN SMALL CHANGES IN HEARING CAN THROW OFF ONE’S BALANCE…Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
11) Limit alcohol consumption. Know that it’s okay to skip the spiked eggnog, as even a small amount of alcohol can negatively affect balance and reflexes. Besides, it’s common knowledge that drinking eggnog is egg-exhausting. And if you’re not laughing, you obviously can’t take a yolk.
12) Reschedule plans if the weather is treacherous. Sometimes we are called to make our own judgment calls. Thus, it’s important to do a risk assessment to decide whether it’s worth the effort to go out into a storm. For example, ask yourself, “Is it worth going out now, or can this errand wait?” Also, bear in mind that the use of walkers in snowy or icy conditions may lead to slips or falls. It’s often best to let the storm pass and have snow and ice cleared before venturing out. Fortunately, postponing events will give us more time to ponder Mark Twain’s famous procrastination quote, “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
13) Let someone strong assist you. It’s okay to let someone you know and trust help you to your car or front door, and just be sure that they are going at your pace and are gently supporting you rather than pulling or pushing you along. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” So, accept help when needed.
14) Use specialty products designed for safety. If your doctor suggests a personal alarm, smartwatch, or other assistive devices, heed that valuable advice. Remember that these ingenious devices are designed to help us and can be a lifesaver in slip and fall emergencies. After all, you wouldn’t choose to walk on a tightrope with no safety net, correct?
When I think about falling, there’s an old Zen saying that comes to mind, “One way to stay humble is to take a tumble.” But rather than risk breaking a limb, it’s way better to keep safe using our 13 wise tips!