Fall Prevention Month: What We Can All Do
BY MARGUERITE THOMAS
As Fall Prevention Month winds down, this is a final call for advocacy, both environmental and personal, to take action to avoid injuries from falls. Please look around in our communities to see what is helpful and what is still an unnecessary risk. While these lists are not exhaustive, there is much that can be done.
Issues when you walk or shop downtown:
• Well-maintained sidewalks without trip hazards and with adequate snow removal
• Benches and public washroom access and signs
• Easy entrances to businesses
Success Stories: Exercise is very helpful, but the lack of public restrooms and a bench to sit on for a rest can be deterrents to walking downtown. In Brussels, we do have benches downtown and, although it has taken a long time, there are four signs, just waiting to be installed, indicating where the public washrooms are located. A small, but very significant help is to have a strip of yellow paint on the edge of an outside cement step. Tuckersmith Communications was asked to do this and thankfully, they did follow up.
What to do: Approach either your municipal representative or business owners for the items that are their responsibility. Keep talking. Persistence does help.
Issues inside public (and private) buildings:
• Safe stairways
• Dry and uncluttered floors
• Safer bathrooms/hotel rooms
• Good Acoustics
Success Stories: One excellent example of retrofitting is Memorial Hall in Blyth. The new brass rails are not only great for size and position; they are very attractive and take nothing away from the heritage style.
What Can We Do? Older buildings may not have the best rise and length for stairs, but two measures that can decrease the risk
are to have a strip of contrasting colour painted on the edge of the stair and adequate railings. A stair railing should be small enough for those with smaller hands, especially older women, to be able to grip it and hold on in the event of
a slip. Looking forward, when the building codes change, public input is requested. Be proactive and let them know that you want safety built in.
Check out this resource for more information:
Winter is upon us and mats at the doors can get wet or slippery or flipped over. Tell someone in the store that there is a hazard.
Similarly, when clutter is a fall hazard, tell the business owner, who would rather hear your comment than face a lawsuit. Bathroom falls are also common. If you stay at a hotel with tubs without a non-slip bottom and strong grab bars, speak up. These features should be a given. Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre renovations are in the planning stage. Speak up for good acoustics because, although less well known, people who are trying to block out noise that they don’t want to hear while listening to what they do want to hear are less able to pay attention to their feet and thus more prone to falling.
Advance planning beats retrofitting. Both Cowbell Brewing Company in Blyth and the Four Winds Barn in Brussels have examples of preplanning. Many of the Cowbell features were designed for accessibility, which is so intertwined with fall prevention.
The new Four Winds Barn has different coloured strips on the edge of the stairs. We are very fortunate in our area to have Julie Sawchuk, who is very knowledgeable about what is needed for accessibility. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a personal level, this month many libraries have had a resource display. Handout resources include:
• Staying Independent brochure (updated version)
• Safe Winter walking brochure
• Staying Independent Home Safety Guide
• Staying on Your Feet Guide
• Exercises at the Kitchen Sink
These resources, as well as presentations, can also be accessed from Chisomo Mchaina at Huron County Health Unit 519-482-3416 ext. 2021 or toll-free at 1-877-837- 6143, online at http://www.huronhealthunit.ca/ or by email at email@example.com
For information on exercise programs visit www.onecare support.ca or call 1-877-502-8277
If you have any questions about fall prevention advocacy and resources email me at firstname.lastname@example.org