Slips, trips, and falls are an ever present hazard; though when our winter weather conditions begin to set in these issues become more prominent. A fall can result in a simple inconvenience of being out of work for a day, to breaking our hip requiring long term rehabilitation, to a life altering head injury.

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Though we are listing this article in our South Portland Age Friendly section this is an issue that does not discriminate against age, so what can we do? We can first look at ourselves for possible corrective or modifiable factors.

A general lack of activity can increase our risks of fall due to a loss of strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility; talk to your doctor or a trainer on what is good for you. Talk to your doctor about medication reconciliation, this means having your doctor evaluate the effects of all the medications you take including over the counter and determine whether they are having adverse effects on you impeding functions such as balance and vision.

You should also discuss with your doctor or physical therapist whether you should be using an adjunct device such as cane if you have a history of falls or a medical condition that could increase your risk of falls. Lastly, we must evaluate the types of foot-wear we chose and whether it is right for the weather conditions or our physical ability.

We can now look at how we can improve our environment. Remove trip hazard clutter in our homes, especially in confined areas such as hallways, bathrooms, and around our bed; and keep high traffic areas wide open. If we have rugs in our home, regardless of our physical ability, we should secure them with double-sided tape or anti-slip pads.

We can store frequently accessed items, such as dishes, in easy to reach distance and locations. Bathrooms tend to be a high target zone for falls thus placing non-slip water absorbing mats on the floor, non-slip mats in the tub or shower, utilizing a hand held shower head, or placing a seat in the shower, installing grab bars in both the shower and by the toilet can all reduce our risks of these types of falls.

In bathrooms, just as the rest of the house and outside, make sure it is well lit, switches are easily accessible, and night lights are installed to light our way until we can access our switches or lamps.

With our current weather conditions we often face the environmental concern of ice, we can address this through the combination of good shoveling practices and a salt and sand spread mix on our steps and walks. We hope this article finds you well and that you continue the season slip, trip and fall free.

Joshua H. Pobrislo is health officer for the city of South Portland.