Winter Weather Fall Prevention – Tips for Amputees

The cold is setting in and wintery weather is upon us. Do you know what to do to prevent slipping and falling? Seemingly simple, everyday actions such as going out for the mail, stepping out of a car in a parking lot, or going on an afternoon walk can suddenly become treacherous in the dead of winter, leading to falls and injury.

General risk factors for falling, in winter or in other seasons, include:

  • Age
  • Previous fall
  • Poor vision
  • Use of multiple medications
  • Fear of falling
  • Use of a prosthesis!

The following are a few helpful tips for wintertime fall prevention:

  • Use a slower and wider gait for balance on wet or potentially slippery surfaces.
  • Pay attention. Walk consciously. Be alert to the possibility that you could quickly slip on an unseen patch of ice.
  • Plan ahead. Watch the weather forecast when planning for errands. If you don’t have to go out, don’t! Wait for the weather and sidewalks to clear.
  • Carry a cell phone. If you should fall, you can call family, a friend or emergency help.
  • Keep kitty litter or bag of sand in your car. These can be tossed on the ground ahead of you to provide better traction if needed.
  • Dress warm. This decreases your chances of injury or exposure if you take a tumble on an icy driveway or walk.
  • Keep your hands free. Wear gloves so you can keep your hands out of your pockets to help you balance. 
  • Be careful getting out of your car. When getting in or out of a vehicle, first check to see if the ground is slippery.
  • Don't take shortcuts. Look for the safest route to your location and into the building. Choose alternate routes when necessary.For example, if the sidewalk or entrance you typically use is icy, find a different route that perhaps has been shoveled or has better sunshine for melting.
  • Take extra time. Being in a hurry is asking for trouble.
  • Stay alert for black ice. Especially in dark or shadowy areas. 
  • Keep your driveway and walkways clear. Remove snow immediately. Keep your porch stoops, steps, walks and driveways free of ice by frequently applying ice melting granules.
  • Ask for help. Have someone help you cross the street or navigate an icy patch, or help with snow removal. 
  • Protect your bone health. Calcium from food sources or supplements and getting vitamin D from sun exposure are important for bone health, which protects against falls. With reduced sun exposure in the winter, ask your physician about vitamin D supplementation.
  • Wear shoes with good traction. Consider ice grippers for your shoes. Try these for your walking shoes or boots and these for dressier shoes.

If you do fall, don't get up right away or let anyone help you up immediately; this avoids the potential of causing further injury. Don't worry about feeling embarrassed. Take your time and assess how you are feeling. Use your cellphone or mobile medical alert device if you need assistance getting up from a fall. In many communities, fire departments are available to help even if no injury is present. Finally, if you have a fall, consider the events leading up to it to avoid a repeat. Reflect on questions such as "What was I doing?" and "What could I have done differently?" 

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Andrea Kinsinger is a licensed Physical Therapist. She received her BS in Physical Therapy in 1986 from Bowling Green State University and the Medical College of Ohio. Andrea has worked with lower extremity amputee patients throughout her career and loves coaching amputees through the process to return to an independent and active life. She also works with area therapists offering expertise and education in gait biomechanics and rehabilitation to facilitate an optimal outcome for our patients at Optimus.

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