Take steps to stay safe this winter

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Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is supporting a campaign to reduce the number of accidental falls in the home.

One third of people over the age of 65 fall each year, but almost half of these are preventable.

Working in partnership with The Public Health Agency, residents are urged to identify factors that increase the risk of falling and take steps to prevent them.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, said: “Falls continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in the home, with older people most at risk. We hope this campaign will raise awareness of the issue and encourage older people to take steps to stay safe in their home.”

Bryan Edgar, Head of Health and Built Environment, said: “I would encourage all older residents to incorporate some small changes into their routine, meaning accident prevention will become a habit. Residents can contact the Council’s Home Safety Officer if they would like further information or guidance on this issue.”

Hilary Johnston, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager with The Public Health Agency, said: “The consequences of a fall can be devastating, ranging from pain and suffering to serious injury and, in some circumstances, death. For many older people it is the fear of falling and loss of confidence that can significantly impact on their ability to remain independent.”

Steps you can take at home to help prevent a fall:

• Keep your stairs free of clutter – do not leave items lying on the stairs that could cause a trip or fall.

• Ensure your home is well lit (use high wattage low energy light bulbs) and always put lights on at night especially when getting up during the night.

• Remove all loose/ worn mats.

• Avoid trailing leads/wires.

• If you use non-slip mats in the bath and shower ensure they are used appropriately removing them after use to air dry and cleaning the soap suds from them that can build up and cause a slip.

• Mop up any water/ spillages as soon as possible.

• Have broken or uneven pathways outdoors repaired.

Your home can be adapted with the help of aids in order to minimise your risk of falling. You can be referred to an Occupational Therapist who can have handrails fitted to your home.

Other simple steps include:

•Check your eyesight – good vision has a major role in how you maintain your balance. Eye tests are free for everyone over the age of 60.

• Look after your feet – as you get older, the size and shape of your feet may change so always have your feet measured when buying new shoes. Choose footwear that have a back with a strap, velcro or preferably laces to secure them tightly. Avoid high heels and slip-ons.

• Bone health – osteoporosis is known as the silent illness and results in more fragile bones that will break more easily, often as a result of a fall. There are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis such as family history, smoking, drinking alcohol, long term immobility, early menopause, previously fractured bones and certain medical conditions. If you think you might be at risk of this condition you should contact your GP.

• Exercise and physical activity – activities that improve muscle strength in our legs, arms, back, shoulders and chest are particularly important as we get older. They can make it easier to get up out of a chair, and improve our posture, co-ordination and balance which reduces our risk of falling. Exercise must be performed at least twice a week for effective falls prevention.

If you are interested in additional information or would like to book a home safety check, please contact Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Health and Built Environment team, based at Riada House in Ballymoney by telephoning 028 2766 0200.