Bits and Bites on Winter

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Beware! Take care! Prevent slips, trips and falls

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Image: Detail of photo of Alberte Villeuneuve-Sinclair

1 December 2014 — We’ve had our first blast of winter in November and we all know that our Canadian winters are long and harsh. Navigating in snowy, slushy and/or icy conditions can spell serious injury and long-standing misery. Everyone has fallen at one time or another but the risks of fractures are higher as we age. A broken hip, for example, can mean the beginning of the end for a fragile individual.

Image: Photo of man slipping on ice.Slips and falls can occur anywhere so we really have to be aware of our body and our environment. I remember, two years ago, dropping in at the St. Laurent Shopping Center to do some Christmas shopping. I was on a mission with limited time left to make my purchases. I walked quickly past the Laura Secord store and found my feet suddenly flying forward as if on a snowboard. I fell to the floor. A kind gentleman came over and helped me up while asking if I was hurt. I looked at him with a puzzled look as he added: “You took that fall like a pro!” I was dazed, “What happened?” We both looked back and saw a streak of melted ice cream where I had lost my footing. He told me this was not the first time he had seen this and promptly went over to advise a clerk there was melted ice cream on the floor.

I was lucky but I learned a precious lesson: take your time, be aware of your surroundings and make sure you are wearing adequate footwear. And be smart! If the weather is really bad, stay at home. Last January, my friend Lucie and I had made a date to attend the Health and Wellness Expo at the Shenkman Center. Freezing rain had coated everything in ice the day before but now sun was out. We decided to go anyway and meet at the back entrance around ten o’clock. I carefully stepped out of my car and started walking toward the Shenkman when I slipped going down a slight incline. Fortunately, CTV had talked about what to do when you slip on ice. I bent my knees and spread my arms as if I had wings. Although the move was not gracious, I didn’t fall. Once inside, I looked around for my friend and waited for her. Lucie would not show up. She had fallen on her way out because her entrance also has an incline. As an experienced nurse, she knew right away she had fractured her wrist. When I finally reached her husband, around eleven, they were at the emergency.

Such injuries take a long time to heal and can affect our wellbeing thereafter. Another friend, tripped while walking on an uneven stretch of gravel this summer and broke her knee. After two operations, she is still recovering at the Perley Rehabilitation Center, hoping to go home soon. This may entail certain modifications to her home.

You can’t prevent the unexpected but making sure you are healthy and staying fit can help prevent accidents. Here are a few tips:

  • Have a regular medical check-up every year.
  • Have your vision checked every year.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting at night.
  • Review your medications with your doctor or pharmacist and discuss potential side effects like vertigo.
  • Participate in regular physical activity. Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent for improving balance and strengthening your muscles. * The city of Ottawa offers free exercise classes at various centers to help seniors stay in shape.
  • Eat at least three servings of calcium-rich food every day and take a vitamin D supplement.
  • Use safety aids that can help you. If you walk to keep fit, you can add ice cleats that attach to your boots and prevent unexpected slips on icy sidewalks and driveways.

As the old adage goes “Better be safe than sorry!”

Here are some more tips to prevent slips, trips and falls.

  • When entering buildings or homes, be aware that immediate entrances and stairs may be slippery from melted ice or snow. When you see such a hazard, bring it to the attention of the person in charge.

  • Bring to the attention of your manager or supervisor any City walkways or entrances that are slippery.

  • Report any concerns, hazards, or slip, trip or fall incidents to your supervisor.