Ask the Expert: Reducing Falls This Winter

Ask the Expert - Reducing Falls This Winter

Cold, wet winter weather means slippery sidewalks and parking lots where people might fall. During the holiday season, many people are climbing ladders to put up or take down holiday decorations or lights, which also poses a fall risk. Dr. Dean Mayer, Medical Director at Intermountain Riverton Hospital, stopped by KUTV to let viewers know how to reduce falls this winter.

Nationally, there are close to three million ED visits annually due to injuries from falls. They result in head injuries, broken bones, and disability from pain. There are close to one million hospital admissions nationwide for management of those injuries.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• One in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year.

• Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

• Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

• Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.

• In 2014, the total cost of fall injuries was $31 billion.

• The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.


People at risk for falling

Individuals over age 65, those with vision problems, strength and balance problems, chronic conditions or who are taking certain medications are at a higher risk of falling. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.

Ways to reduce fall risk:

1. Wear proper footwear to improve traction on slippery surfaces.

2. Avoid slippery surfaces and walk carefully, keeping hands free and at your sides for balance.

3. Avoid carrying large boxes or packages, that limit vision.

4. Offer to help older adults by carrying items or offering an arm.

5. Use another person, or a device such as a cane, walker, or scooter to help improve stability if you have difficulty with balance or walking.

6. Be careful on ladders.

7. Get regular eye exams to help improve vision.

8. Consult your doctor if you have problems with dizziness, balance or weakness.

9. Limit the alcohol you drink.

How to make your home safer for those at risk of falling

1. Use handrails when using stairs.

2. Remove tripping hazards such as small rugs.

3. Use nightlights to help improve visibility in the middle of the night, especially for guests at risk of falling.

4. Keep bathrooms safe. Use non-slip mats in bathtubs and showers. Install grab bars in the tub, shower and near the toilet. Portable grab bars can be used when traveling.

Physical therapy programs at Riverton Hospital are available to improve strength and balance.

Fall prevention classes:

Intermountain Healthcare is partnering with Utah Department of Health, and Division of Aging to offer free classes. Classes are held at Intermountain hospitals in the greater Salt Lake area in 2018.

Stepping On Workshop – a 7-week course of 2 hour classes with guest experts (Optometrist, Pharmacist, and Physical Therapist).

To find a class go to:

Enter your zip code. Or call Utah Department of Health Resource Line: 1-888-222-2542.