Fall Prevention Month: Grandparents and Grandkids - Fun and Safety Together
BY MARGUERITE THOMAS
The motto says it all “It takes a community to prevent a fall: We all have a role to play”. Welcome to the third article in the Fall Prevention Month series. Risks are part of what makes life exciting and fun, but it is important that our risks are smart risks when grandparents and grandchildren visit, play, walk, explore and enjoy doing physical activities together.
Since children are “top heavy” they often fall headfirst when they trip or lose their balance, falling to the ground and risking serious head and neck injuries. Falls in children and infants are made worse when a child falls from a height and hits their head on objects as they fall (e.g. coffee table). Young children, whether timid or fearless, have yet to develop the reasoning powers to evaluate what is safe and what is risky. Play that is challenging can inherently include some risks that help children to learn risk perception and management skills, which are important in developing an understanding of how to navigate risks and avoid injury (Parachute, 2015).
Older adults can do much to maintain much of their vigor and balance. Yet, we do age if we are fortunate, and we do lose muscle mass and may experience loss in our sense of balance. Factors such as osteoporosis significantly contribute to fractures. Falls in children and in youth that result in injury, and emergency department visits, are most commonly falls resulting from slips, trips and stumbles on the same level. Other common reasons for injuries are falls from beds and furniture and falls on stairs. As children age, some new risk factors emerge. Although physical activity is a well-known protective factor against injury, many children sustain injuries on monkey bars, and from falls involving skates, skis and roller blades.
In adults, slips and trips continue to be the most common cause of a fall and continue to be tied to individual factors like exercise, work environment, medication and alcohol and drug use. Although risk taking is something that contributes to falls at every age, risk behaviour may change from overestimating ability on a skateboard to using a ladder unsafely while stringing
Here are some considerations for when grandparents and grandchildren visit:
• Excitement – Grandparents and grandchildren are excited to be together. Don’t let the excitement lead to ignoring basic safety.
• Fatigue – Grandparents can find grandchildren both exhilarating and exhausting. Grandchildren’s usual nap times may be disrupted. Stick to the routines when possible.
• Clutter – Visitors’ clutter can range from shoes in the entrance way to toys on the floor, a purse or a cane – all of these may not be the everyday clutter and add extra trip hazards.
• Childproofing – Gates on stairwells are a good thing, but often not part of grandparents’ everyday household. Become familiar with new devices to learn how they all work.
• Stairs – Stairs are a well-known hazard. Stairs that have smooth carpeting, busy patterns, or are all one colour are difficult to see. A strip painted at the edge of the stair, or change of level on a deck, enables it to be more readily seen.
• Lighting – Night lights, bathroom lights, illumination on stairways and hallways help all generations, especially at night.
• Unfamiliar territory –New environments can have different levels, different styles of walkway and objects that are not our everyday experience. Experience it slowly, not hurrying.
One of life’s great rewards is watching grandparents have fun with grandchildren. Keep a journal, love every moment of it, knowing that you have done your best to keep everyone safe and happy. Fall Prevention Month awareness, spearheaded by national and provincial partners and supported by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, is now in its fourth year.
Adapted with permission from an article originally published and available in the Huron/Perth Boomers magazine available online at www.huronperthboomers.com
Fall Prevention Month Toolkit: www.fallpreventionmonth.ca
Injury Prevention (General): www.parachutecanada.org; www.onf.org
Child Safety in the Maritimes: www.childsafetylink.ca
Window Safety Video: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/health-safety/keepingkids-healthy/prevention
Window Safety Handout: https://www.safekid.org/images/SafetyDocuments/
In your hands, prevent falls: http://www.hkpr.on.ca/InfoSet/Babies
Public Health Agency of Canada – You can prevent falls (older adults)
https://www.canada.ca/en/html and search “You Prevent Falls