Advice and Guides

COT issues guidance on preventing falls in bad weather

College of Occupational Therapy issues guidance for clients on how to keep safe and prevent falls in winter

Published on 15th January 2017

The College of Occupational Therapists has issued advice for OTs to pass on to their clients to keep them safe during the cold weather.

A huge 40% of all ambulance call outs are due to people experiencing falls, which are the single biggest cause of death from injury in the over 65s.

As the temperatures have plummeted, the COT has issued guidance for OTs to use during their meetings with clients.

In an effort to help people, especially older people, to stay well and avoid injuries during the cold and icy weather the college has issued the following tips:

  • Ask yourself - do I really need to go out?
    Could you arrange for a delivery or for a relative, friend or neighbour to pick up essential supplies?
  • If you do need to go out is there someone who can go with you?
  • Make sure you have had something to eat and drink before you leave.
    Dehydration and lack of nutrition can increase the risk of falling. Consider taking a drink and snack with you as well in case you are out longer than you expect.
  • Warm up before you head outside.
    If your body feels stiff take time to move around within your home before stepping outside.
  • Wear supportive footwear which has good grip.
    This will help with balance and stability.
  • If you have a walking aid such as a walking stick or frame - use it!
  • Wrap up well and stay warm - wear several thin layers of clothing.
  • If you have one, take your mobile phone with you.
    If not, tell someone you are going out and let them know when you are safely back home.

Karin Orman, Professional Practice Manager at The College of Occupational Therapists explains that Occupational Therapists are working hard across the country to reduce the pressure on the NHS: “Cold weather always results in extra strain being put on our Ambulance Services and A&E departments. With the NHS struggling to cope it is especially important that everyone does everything they can to avoid them needing a trip to hospital. That is why we have pulled together these easy to follow tips to help people to avoid trips and falls as the winter bites.

“Thousands of Occupational Therapists are working flat out across the country to help the NHS to avoid unnecessary admissions and ensure that when people are admitted to hospital they can get back home as soon as they are well enough to do so."

A year-long study by the College of Occupational Therapists has demonstrated how occupational therapists can not only reduce hospital admissions but also improve patient flow and earlier discharge once people do find themselves in hospital.

The ‘Reducing Pressure on Hospitals’ report published in November identifies six recommendations to ensure occupational therapy services are supported to help more people avoid admission to hospital or return swiftly home once admitted. Access to occupational therapy at the hospital front door cuts admissions and discharge delays, reducing the time medically fit patients spend in hospital.

Meanwhile Age UK has issued the following advice to older people during the cold weather:

Top tips for staying well and warm this winter

To limit the risk of cold-related health problems during cold weather, follow these steps:

1. Monitor room temperatures. 64°F is the ideal temperature for your bedroom and 70°F is the ideal temperature for your living room.

2. Keep windows closed. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections, so make sure your bedroom window is shut at night.

3. Stay active. Get up if you've been indoors and sitting still for more than an hour.

4. Eat well. This is particularly important in the winter. Have at least one hot meal a day as well as regular hot drinks. Also stock up on basic food items in case you can't get out during a cold snap.

A guide to keeping warm in winter - Age UK


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