Don’t let spring cleaning become spring falling for the elderly

It just happened to my wife, an avid early morning walker. She does everything ‘right’ in terms of the ‘right’ shoes, coat, scarf, hat—you name it –she does it. The only thing she does not do is make sure the weather is perfect and receptive to activities of middle, later age, and elderly individuals. 

So she did her walk, it was still dark out, the temperature was below freezing and then according to her she was on the ground with lots of pain in her right arm. When she returned home clearly there was a bulge at her shoulder which the emergency room visit proved to be a fracture of her upper arm. The only silver lining was that it would be treated with a sling and immobilization and not surgery—with pain medication as required.

Spring is a wonderful time of year. The birds are chirping, the snow and ice are melting, and little shoots of green can be seen in the garden. But the eaves troughs are full of leaves and in our case pine needles, thereby interfering with proper water run-off from the usually heavy spring rains. Many walkways are uneven from the effects of ice, snow, salt, and shovelling. Many of us are chomping at the bit of “repair” and “ready the house and garden” for the full onslaught of spring. But don't let srping cleaning become spring falling for the elderly.

A few simple tips: accidents are among the most common causes of injury among seniors. Climbing on ladders can be very risky especially if no one is actually holding the ladder steady. Many seniors stand on chairs, particularly in the house to change light bulbs or get things down from high cupboards. All are high potential situations for falls and injury.

Here are three key injury prevention tips:
1.    Hire someone or get a younger family member to do any outside ladder work.
2.    Get a small steady indoor ladder to assist in changing light bulbs and do not do it while alone in the room or house- a slip of even a few feet get be disastrous. After all, older bones do not heal easily.
3.    Make sure the bathroom has safety grab bars—the surfaces of bathroom fixtures are unforgiving. Getting out of a shower or tub should not be done without access to a properly installed grab bar; the towel rack will not prevent a fall, it will likely dislodge and just pull out with even a modest amount of weight.

So be careful, be prudent and be able to enjoy the next season, which is summer!