Winter is a hazardous time of year, with snow, ice, and slush contributing to slippery conditions, power failures, and frozen waterlines. Seniors need to be especially cautions this time of year. While age-related vision loss, balance issues, and medications can all increase the risk of falls in any season, the frequency rises significantly during the colder months of the year.
Slips, trips, and falls can lead to a wide variety of health complications. Sprains and strains are the most common injuries associated with falls, and in more serious cases, broken bones, torn muscles, and even brain injuries can occur. Seniors who experience traumatic injuries may require hospitalization or rehabilitation services to regain their independence.
Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls
Fortunately, there are many preventative measures that can reduce the risks of falls. In winter, it is vital that driveways and sidewalks be kept clear and free of ice. Walking with a cane or walker can provide additional balance support, and always take your time in cold, wet conditions. Always wearing appropriate winter clothing, even just to step out for a moment, can add a layer of padding and protection from the cold in case a fall does happen. In addition, be sure to have your cell phone or medical alert button readily accessible if you need to call for help.
As occupational therapist Melissa Gibblets explains, the key to remaining active and independent is early intervention. “Balance is a skill,” she says, “a learned motor pattern. You can keep it or lose it.” Melissa recommends exercises to enhance muscle flexibility. Not only will these exercises help improve balance, but the added flexibility can make everyday tasks easier.
Safe and regular exercise is vital to maintaining strength and flexibility while aging, and recent studies suggest a strong correlation between physical activity and mental fitness, possibly reducing or delaying the onset of dementia. As Melissa says, “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain!”
Regaining mobility after a hospitalization or nursing home stay is especially important. The Step Down Program at Elan Gardens Senior Living offers temporary care for those not yet ready to return home from skilled nursing facilities, bridging the gap between nursing care and independent living. The program is ideal for those who need additional therapy while rebuilding their strength in a safe environment. On-site medication management, personal laundry services, and daily homestyle meals allow residents to focus their time and energy on recovery without worrying about the daily tasks that would take up much of their day.
At Elan Gardens, residents enjoy a customized, client-centered program created by a dedicated outpatient rehab team. This team combines occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy to address existing deficits while learning preventative exercises and techniques that can improve balance and coordination, decrease the risk of falls, and treat pain, additional loss of muscle strength or mass, and overall decline in daily function. Whether you seek services from our Step Down Program to help you transition safely home or your goal is to stay with us long-term, we will be able help you maintain your independence and ensure your quality of life.
Aging Well is an ongoing series of blogs written by Audrey J. Ross, Director of Marketing and Admissions at Elan Gardens Senior Living. This post was written with guidance from Melissa Gibblets, MS, OTR/L, CPAM, LSVT-BIG, Director of Rehabilitation at Elan Skilled Nursing and Rehab.