With the holidays and inclement weather approaching, it’s the perfect time of year to be thinking about how to prevent falls. Believe it or not, being assertive about your own safety is job one.

Child Giving Gift to her GrandmotherPicture this: you’re invited to your daughter’s house for a holiday meal. You can drive just fine on your own, but there are stairs leading up to your daughter’s house with no hand rail. Additionally, her family has a small dog that always seems to be underfoot.  You’re afraid the stairs and the dog may cause a fall,  but a visit to her house is lovely and you look forward to spending time with your family. You don’t want to hurt your daughter’s feelings or seem needy or that you can’t take care of yourself.  So what do you do?

Say something. Chances are, your daughter wants you to come over for the holidays AND wants you to feel safe in her home.  Sometimes we forget that the people closest to us still can’t read our minds. Your family members  might not know you feel unsafe. You can make your needs known and enjoy visits. You don’t have to be aggressive, but be assertive. If you let your daughter know you’re worried about falling on her stairs without a railing, someone will meet you at the car and help you in. She may even install a handrail since it will make every person approaching the house feel safer.  And the dog? You like the dog, but he’s always by your feet and seems determined to trip you up.  Practice being assertive in this situation too. Ask her to put the dog in the yard or in a bedroom while you’re walking about the house. Perhaps he can be on a leash inside so when you need to get up, the dog can be held out of your way.

Usually we have to simply ask for what we need to ensure we feel safe.  Remember, most people aren’t trying to be rude or thoughtless; they just may not look at a space and think about falling the way you may. Most people are willing to help; you just have to ask.

Here are a few other strategies for staying on your feet in the winter months:

  • Make sure you have winter shoes that have more grip than others to endure wet leaves, snow and even a little ice.
  • Keep your eyes open for other natural hazards such as gumballs and walnuts.
  • Never put both hands in your coat pocket; you want at least one hand free to protect your head in case you do fall. Wear gloves and/or use hand warmers.
  • Carry a flashlight in your pocket or purse to help navigate the darker evenings.

To find out more ways to prevent falls, visit oasisnet.org/National-Programs/Health-Programs/Fall-prevention.