Walking Tall

National Safety Month tips for staying confident on your feet

Anyone can have a slip.

Literally, staying on your feet is not always an easy thing, which is why during the month of June – recognized as National Safety Month – the National Safety Council is promoting education on the prevention of slips, trips and falls.

According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, falls are the leading cause of accidental injury for people age 55 and older, despite the fact that they are a preventable health problem. Individuals who have had changes in balance or a decline in physical mobility, those with a chronic illness or visual impairments, hearing deficits or foot problems, and those taking more than four prescription medications are at increased risk.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Steady Steps, an award-winning fall risk reduction program, to help reduce the incidence and negative impacts of falls. Of our participants, 85 percent lower their risk of falls, improve balance and learn how to prevent falls from occurring.

The program, which is funded by a grant from and based on research by the experts from the Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention and the Yale School of Medicine through the Department of Aging, is led by a team of nurses, physical therapists and certified instructors.

It includes screenings in the home or community setting, assessment of risks for falls and development of a personalized plan, assessment of home safety hazards, a balance assessment and blood pressure evaluation along with a medication review, and the teaching of simple balance exercises.

When it comes to avoiding falls, there are some simple steps everyone can take.

Dress for success

Cute shoes may be calling, but one of the most important things to do to prevent a fall is to wear the right footwear for your environment. Make sure to consider the conditions of where you’re headed and how much walking you’ll be doing when selecting shoes. Slip-resistant shoes can be helpful, but at a minimum make sure your shoes are broken in to reduce the slippery nature of the soles. You can do this by scuffing the soles on concrete before wearing them. Even around the house, make sure the soles of slippers are rough and don’t walk around on wood or tile floors in socks.

Hit the lights

Make sure when you are working or navigating a new environment that the lighting is appropriate, and take care when getting out of bed at night for a trip to the bathroom or kitchen. Adequate lighting helps you to see objects in your path and to avoid missteps that can lead to slips and falls.

Know your surroundings and announce yourself

We’ve all tried at some point to be a master of maneuvering – to sidestep through that tight space carrying something in our hands – but the best way to be safe is to be sure you have plenty of visibility and a path to move through while walking. It can also be helpful to announce yourself when in a shared or public space. Open doors slowly and tell others when you’re moving around them but are outside their line of sight, for example walking behind them.

Focus on fitness

Staying flexible and agile can help you to avoid falls, or minimize the impact if a fall takes place. As part of its Steady Steps program, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers programs tailored to participant’s fitness and ability level including sitercize, Exercise for Better Balance and Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance®, all of which can help reduce the risk for falls.

For more information on dates and times of Steady Steps programming, visit vnacommunityhealthcare.org/calendar.