As the weather gets colder and we start to see things like rain, snow (and ice) in the forecast, our risk of things like slips, trips and falls also increases. While these types of injuries are common and can happen to anyone, seniors tend to be more susceptible. Among the most common injuries associated with slip and fall accidents are:
• Head injuries
• Hip fractures
• Back and spinal cord injuries
• Shoulder injuries
• Sprains and fractures
Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (also known as TBIs.) In fact, falls account for as many as 40% of TBI-related injuries resulting in the need for medical treatment and/or hospitalization. A TBI can be anything from a minor concussion, or it can be an injury so severe that it may cause things such as mood changes, seizures, cognitive impairment, in addition to other debilitating symptoms.
As many as 95% of hip fractures are due to falls both in and outside of the home. In many cases, a hip fracture will result in the patient requiring surgery – sometimes hip implantation (an artificial hip), followed by extensive rehabilitation therapy.
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
Back and spinal cord injuries due to falls can range from mild to severe. They can include things like bruising of the tailbone, as well as fractured vertebrae and herniated discs, which can not only cause severe pain but also limit your mobility and maybe even cause temporary paralysis, in addition to neurological and sensory-related impairments.
When you suffer a slip or a fall, it’s also possible to develop a shoulder injury such as a brachial plexus injury (more commonly known as a dislocated shoulder.) Shoulder injuries can also range from mild to severe, and are often treated with physical therapy – and, in some cases, surgery.
Sprains and Fractures
It’s common to develop other sprains, fractures, and even broken bones in other areas of the body when you fall. Parts of the body that can be impacted include the wrists, knees, ankles, and pelvis, and are often caused due to hard landings or moving in an awkward position during a fall. Depending on the severity of a sprain, fracture or break, you may need to wear a cast for several weeks, while those with less severe injuries can wear a bandage or brace to support the affected limb.
As for what you can to do prevent falls from occurring, it’s always important to keep driveways and walkways clear of snow and ice – especially now that the weather is changing. For seniors, this can sometimes be difficult, so it’s always a kind gesture to lend a neighbour a helping hand if they may not be able to keep pathways clear on their own. Those who are at risk of falling may also benefit from the use of a device such as a walker. Similarly, at home, floors should also be kept clear of clutter. Increasing your physical activity level can also be helpful in preventing falls as it will improve your muscle strength in addition to mobility and balance.
For more information on fall prevention, visit fallpreventionmonth.ca.