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While the snow and ice haven’t hit yet, the rain certainly has and with it comes slippy footpaths and steps, which can create hazardous conditions for pedestrians, especially for older people and people who are blind or vision impaired. However, we often forget about the dangers in our own homes, which is where many falls occur.
The British Orthopaedic Association estimates the number of hip fractures per year may double by 2050. According to Tammy Boyce’s recent report, produced by RNIB in the UK earlier this year, 30 per cent of those aged 65 years and older experience at least one fall each year. “Every minute, six people over 65 suffer a fall. Falls are a major cause of disability and the leading cause of mortality resulting from injury in people aged over 75 in the UK. (NICE 2004). It is estimated that 50 per cent of over 80s will fall in any given year.” (Boyce, 2011).
While not all of these falls are due to sight loss, Boyce states that “there is growing evidence of the impact which impaired vision has on falls”. Wood et al. (2011) found older adults with AMD had a higher incidence of falls and injuries. Almost half (47 per cent) of all falls in the population with visual impairment were directly attributable to the visual impairment (Scuffham et al. 2003).
With this in mind, Caroline Robson, rehabilitation worker with NCBI, has written some guidelines on how to keep safe inside and out of the home this winter.
In the home
As we get older we need brighter lights to see well. Even lighting is best to prevent having to move from a dark area to a lighter area or light to dark. Get someone to fit improved lighting for you or use daylight simulation bulbs.
- Remove loose mats or rugs.
- Remove trailing wires or cords from lamps, telephones or heaters.
- Fix loose or uneven steps or stairs and don’t leave clutter on the stairs.
- Fit lights at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Fit stair rails on both sides making sure they fit all the way to the top step and bottom step.
- In the kitchen, keep items that you use regularly within reach to avoid having to climb. Use a steady step stool to reach items higher up, not a chair! * Close cupboard doors after opening.
Bathroom and Bedroom
- In the bathroom, have grab rails fitted and use a non-slip backed mat.
- In the bedroom, have a lamp next to the bed and ensure there is a light between the bedroom and the bathroom.
- If you have a personal alarm, wear it, it won’t help you when you fall if it’s in the drawer!
- Keep a torch by your bedside.
- Fit snow grips to shoes/boots.
- Keep salt and a shovel inside the door or porch.
- Be seen – wear an over the body reflective belt or other reflective clothing or arm bands.
- Anti-glare glasses may help against the glare of snow.
- You may want to consider using a weight bearing stick for support.
- Talk to your community resource worker or rehabilitation worker about learning some simple techniques to make yourself safer, such as body protection techniques, trailing or sighted guide technique.
Improving Strength to Improve Mobility
Regular physical activity not only keeps you warm, it can make you stronger, improve your balance and your co-ordination. Start slowly by walking with a sighted guide. Make sure you are wearing correctly fitted, sturdy shoes. Even if you have another condition like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or arthritis you will find a level of activity to suit you and these conditions can improve with some exercise. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about starting any form of physical activity. If you are diabetic ensure you exercise within 30 minutes of having a snack. Consider taking a good supplement like a multi-vitamin.
Keep warm and safe this winter. Stay in touch with family or elderly neighbours who may need help or company and stay safe at home and outdoors.
Reference: Boyce, Tammy (2011) Falls – costs, numbers and links with visual impairment. RNIB: London.