COLUMBUS — As fall foliage in Ohio comes into full color, Steady U Ohio, the state’s comprehensive, older adult-falls-prevention initiative, reminds all Ohioans that, while leaves are supposed to fall, people aren’t.
Falls are not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented by knowing the risk factors and making simple changes to home, health and habits to reduce or eliminate them.
Autumn brings with it some unique falls risks for many Ohioans. Here are some tips for avoiding them:
• Leaves, branches and other debris from trees can make walkways slippery or hide tripping hazards like uneven surfaces, edges and steps. Keep walkways clean, and if you can’t see that the surface is clear and flat, pick another path.
• If winterizing your home includes cleaning gutters, changing light bulbs or other tasks that require you to get up high, use a step ladder or a step stool with a handle, and maintain three points of contact (two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot) at all times. Do not climb on chairs or other furniture that was not designed for that purpose.
• Shorter days mean less direct sunlight and less sunlight overall, thus, you may need more light to get around your home safely. Invest in extra lamps, nightlights and exterior pathway lights to make sure you can always see where you are walking, especially around doorways and stairs. Use the highest-wattage bulbs recommended for your fixtures.
• Don’t let cooler weather and shorter days limit your activity. Exercise that builds and maintains strength and balance is important to prevent falls year-round. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises that can help you maintain strength and balance when you can’t venture out.
• Keep shoes and walking aids (canes, walkers) free of dirt and mud. Dry them off immediately upon coming in from wet conditions. Remember, wet shoes are just as dangerous as wet floors.
• If your autumn plans include attending one of Ohio’s great fall fairs and festivals, stick to paved surfaces as much as possible; watch for trash, hoses and cables on walkways; drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated; and consider attending at off-peak times, when the crowds are lighter.
For more fall and winter tips to help you or a loved one prevent falls, visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.