SAFETY FIRST: Narelle Hopper, Customer Care Manager at the Tunstall Monitoring Centre.
SAFETY FIRST: Narelle Hopper, Customer Care Manager at the Tunstall Monitoring Centre.

How to stay safe in winter

HEALTH experts are preparing for an increase in falls and more elderly patients who require urgent attention as injury numbers jump by nearly a third in the colder months.

According to a recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, falls are the leading cause of hospital- isation for the elderly.

Narelle Hopper, customer care manager at the Tunstall Monitoring Centre in Eagle Farm, says several factors caused an increase in falls in winter.

"The main factor is cold weather. Limbs can get a bit stiff, and it can be hard to get up out of bed or your chair and move about. In some regions, the increase in wet and windy weather in combination with an increase in leaves on the ground can cause a rise in falls outside and around the house,” Ms Hopper said.

"Vertigo brought on by certain hearing conditions, standing up too fast, dehydration, or some medications are other common fall causes.”

The consequences of falling can range from mild to quite debilitating.

Ms Hopper said a fall could affect a person's confidence, leading to a reduction in physical activity, and the complete opposite of what they actually needed to do.

"People are often embarrassed if they can't get back up again.

"They worry about going to a hospital or being put into a nursing home,” she said.

"The most important thing for our elderly loved ones is being attended to quickly, which can reduce the long-term impact and severity of a fall injury.

"This is where fall detectors and personal alarms come into play.”

What are the top proactive measures to prepare and be safe? Here are some simple steps to decrease the likelihood of falling.

Take medication at the prescribed times and dose recommended by your GP

Drink plenty of water

Keep hydrated

Drink warm cups of tea and soup, which help to bolster fluids

Warm your body up by doing leg stretches and circles before standing up

If you have a walking aid, use it

Do weight-bearing and balance exercises to help improve gait and balance

Hold on to something to steady yourself when you stand up

Whether you're inside or outside, hold on to the railing while walking up or down stairs and take your time

When walking outside, avoid slippery, wet areas and wet leaves

If you have a personal alarm, wear it so if something does happen you can get help quickly and your family can be alerted

If you are worried about the danger of falls for a friend or family member, these are the steps to take.

Check the house and surrounds for trip or slip hazards

Encourage your loved ones to do their exercises

Make sure their home is warm in winter.

Check their medications are being taken properly. If they are a bit forgetful or the medication is complex, ask the chemist to pop them in a Webster pack

If they have a fall detector or personal alarm, encourage them to wear it and use it

If you see signs of bruises or scrapes, which may indicate loss of balance or spatial awareness, suggest a visit to GP or even an occupational therapist.

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