How to prevent accidents during icy conditions
It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – everyone is at risk of slipping over in icy conditions.
In fact, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) says there were 7,031 admissions to hospital in 2012/13 as a result of people of all ages falling over on snow or ice.
But while young people can break bones taking a tumble, the effects can be life-changing or even fatal for the elderly.
‘A third of over-65s fall every year’
It's estimated that around a third of people over 65 will fall in a year, rising to approximately half of all those aged 80 and over – falls which not only destroy their confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, but can also have more serious consequences.
One very common result of falls in the elderly is a fractured hip, and sadly the NHS estimates up to one in three people die within 12 months of such an injury, often because of other conditions that set in after the initial fracture.
Fear and isolation:
Age UK says falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for more than four million hospital bed days each year in England alone, and the charity estimates that the fear of falling again means one in ten older people who've fallen are afraid to leave their homes again.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says “the charity's research shows that over two million older people (19%) worry about not being able to get out as much over winter because of poor weather conditions and shorter, darker days.
“Falls are a serious threat to older people's health, wellbeing and independence, and winter can be a particularly challenging time because of slippery pavements.
“Yet despite having serious consequences, falls in later life are often dismissed as an inevitable part of growing older, when in reality they are preventable.”
They can be prevented:
This prevention begins with everyone reporting any unsafe conditions, says Rospa. They also advise older people to wear extra layers to protect more vulnerable parts of the body like the head, neck and spine in case they fall.
Special garments are also available to help the elderly protect their hips if they fall, and William Beckett, chief executive of Hip Impact Protection, which makes Fall-Safe hip protectors, says: “Icy conditions exponentially increase the number of falls older people have each year and with 8,000 people falling every day in the UK on average, the number of casualties that hospitals could see in the winter months is huge.
“Given the current inability for hospitals to manage A&E patients, families, care homes and residential homes need to take active measures to prevent falls causing serious injury this winter.”
** Top tips from Rospa for staying safe
on winter’s slippery surfaces **
1. Wear sturdy footwear with a good grip – you can change into other shoes at your destination.
2. Use Nordic walking poles (or similar) if you have them
3. Take it slowly and allow yourself extra journey time – a last-minute dash to catch the bus could be a slippery disaster
4. Keep an eye on what's underfoot. Some places will remain icy for longer than others, e.g. places that don't get the sun
5. If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, or even neighbours who are new mums, offer to go to the shops for them
6. If councils have provided grit bins, use them – but don't remove vast quantities for your own use
7. Of course, as well as slips and trips on pavements and in public places, many people fall on their own footpaths and driveways. Take care in these places too – it may be worth buying some sand, salt or grit so you can scatter it on your drive etc if wintry conditions are forecast.
For more information and advice on preventing falls, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/falls
or call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 6565.