Seniors are particularly susceptible to falls, especially during the winter. While we must provide adequate care and attention to seniors year-round, it’s even more vital to do so during the cold season.The accumulation of water, ice, and snow in outdoor areas pose a significant fall risk for seniors. Below, we discuss three ways both nursing homes and your family can protect seniors from falls this winter.
#1. Provide Adequate Supervision
Seniors must be kept a close eye on during the winter. The following steps should be taken by your loved one’s nursing home (or by your family, if your loved one lives at home) to prevent winter falls:
- Install and maintain security systems in a nursing home facility or in your own home (if your loved one lives there).
- Create a schedule for seniors so staff or your family knows where they should be at any given time.
- Assign each senior a staff or family “buddy” to accompany them on walks outside.
- Have someone get the senior’s mail, groceries, and other delivery items so the senior can avoid going outside when it’s snowy or wet.
- Lock doors that lead to the outside.
FAST FACT: Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
#2. Make Sure Seniors Have Winter Attire
Seniors should be well-equipped for colder weather. This involves wearing layers including thick coats, sweaters, hats, gloves, and earmuffs to protect them from the elements. It’s also vital that seniors wear enough protection on their feet, particularly when walking on wet or icy surfaces. Seniors should always don waterproof shoes with proper tread and traction to prevent wet socks and potential infections or frostbite.
All of this outdoor activity means that moisture will inevitably be tracked indoors. Nursing homes (and your home, too) should install mats to avoid tracking of snow and ice throughout the building, which could pose slip and fall risks to other people who are already inside.
Nursing home staff or your family (if your loved one lives with you) should make an effort to provide residents with these items. If certain residents cannot acquire any winter clothing, nursing homes should adjust accordingly and ensure their time outside is short and supervised.
FAST FACT: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), older people are at risk for hypothermia because their body’s response to cold can be diminished by certain illnesses such as diabetes and some medicines. In addition, older adults may be less active and generate less body heat, and can develop hypothermia even after exposure to relatively mild cold weather or a small drop in temperature.
#3. Keep Pathways Clear
During the winter, the snow that accumulates on commonly used pathways around nursing home facilities or homes should be cleared regularly.
Even if seniors do take a supervised walk outside (and in warm clothing), they could still experience a devastating slip and fall accident if they are walking on slippery ground.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies that sidewalks must have 36 inches of clear passageway. However, different municipal ordinances have varying degrees of detail for how best to achieve a safe clear zone for pedestrians after a snowfall.
There are several strategies that nursing homes (and you) can employ to keep the surrounding areas clear from snow, including the following:
- Utilize the “melt strategy” in locations where snow is known to melt quickly in certain weather conditions.
- Participate in Business Improvement Districts (BID) or Special Improvement Districts (SID) where businesses encumber a tax that funds maintenance activities such as snow and ice removal from sidewalks by a hired contractor.
- Sprinkle gravel, ash, or salt on the snow to prevent slip hazards.
Was Your Loved One Harmed in This Winter? Contact Us Today
Seniors have lived long lives and deserve to experience their remaining days in peace and dignity. It is nursing homes’ responsibility to fulfill that duty by providing safe and clean facilities for seniors.
If your loved one experienced a slip and fall accident in their nursing home, our experienced Baltimore attorneys are here to help. We have helped countless clients throughout Maryland obtain justice in the wake of their loved ones’ injuries. We’re here to help you, too.