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Tips to avoid a hospital visit due to falling

By Brad Perry Jan 22, 2024 | 6:54 AM

Slips and falls are the leading cause of emergency department visits in New Brunswick, according to an injury prevention specialist.

Horizon Health says nearly 40,000 New Brunswickers visit an emergency room every year after slipping, tripping or falling and coming into contact with the ground.

And fall-related injuries cost the New Brunswick healthcare system about $250 million, representing the largest single contributor to the total cost of injury in the province.

Dr. Richard Louis with Trauma NB said people of all ages are susceptible to fall-related injuries, but seniors are most at risk, especially during the winter months.

“Unfortunately, for those older adults, you do tend to have more significant injuries with regards to falling, tripping and slipping,” Louis said in a recent interview.

According to Trauma NB, there are an average of eight hospital admissions each day in New Brunswick due to fall-related injuries among older adults.

The average age of those presenting to Horizon emergency departments with injuries due to a fall is 70 years old, according to the health authority.

The good news, according to Louis, is that most falls are preventable if you take steps to address fall risk factors. He noted the first step is recognizing that you are at risk and determining what your level of risk is.

“We encourage older adults to complete a self-screening checklist — a series of 12 questions — in order to have that better understanding about your personal risk for a fall,” said Louis.

Risk factors include impaired mobility, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, home hazards, chronic conditions, and fear of falling.

The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling, but Louis said many of the factors can be modified.

When out walking in the winter, you can help avoid falls by walking like a penguin. Point your feet out slightly; keep your knees relaxed and walk flat-footed; take shorter shuffle-like steps; keep your arms out and your hands free; and walk slowly.

Other tips include wearing appropriate footwear, trying to avoid carrying heavy loads, and considering the use of a walking aid such as canes or a pair of ski poles.