2008-01-18 / Community

Keeping Seniors Safe During Winter Months

The holiday season may be over but the inclement weather conditions associated with winter will remain with us for quite some time. Winter weather that results in melted snow and ice can cause potentially dangerous and hazardous conditions for everyone but particularly senior citizens and the elderly. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control one third of all adults over age 65 fall each year. In 2003 alone, 1.8 million seniors were treated in emergency rooms for fall related injuries. Winter conditions are easily the most hazardous time of the year for this occurrence.

An orthopedic surgeon in New York City specializing in fracture care of the elderly, James D. Capozzi, MD, a member of the Department of Orthopaedics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine treats large numbers of serious injuries among our senior population. Roughly 400,000 fall related fractures occur every year in the US.

"The winter season can be very dangerous for the elderly if the right precautions are not taken," remarked Dr. Capozzi. "Most hip fractures occur from falls. Ice and other wintry conditions can definitely increase the chance of serious falls happening." To help prevent such accidents, Dr. Capozzi offers the following winter safety tips for seniors:

Keep all walkways and driveways free from snow and ice;

Modify canes with metal grips on the bottom for additional stability on slippery surfaces;

Improve lighting in high traffic areas both inside and outside the home;

Use a well-secured floor mat by the entrance door to catch any falling snow or ice from shoes or clothing. Wipe all puddles immediately. Also, caution seniors to be aware of any newly-placed mats or rugs;

In case of severe weather or storms, make sure seniors have plenty of food, pet food and medication supplies during the winter months. Cancel all nonemergency appointments during these times;

Exercise whenever possible to maintain muscle strength, coordination and balance;

Keep all eyeglass prescriptions up to date.

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