Healthy Living in the North

Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Back to school: The connection protection

School bus

Back-to-school time reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school and playground.

This is the second year now where my daughter gears up for school and my son gears up to wait. My 4-year-old son has one more year at home before beginning his school journey in kindergarten in September 2017.

When I watch my 4-year-old wave to his sister as she walks to school, I am reminded of the many connections that exist at back-to-school time and how each of these connections will protect our family. Northern Health’s newly released Child Health Report would go so far as to say connection is one of the building blocks of health.

The first week of school is the perfect time to talk to kids about making new friends, showing kindness to others, and extending tolerance and acceptance. The pencils, patterns, and routines of a new school year help connect and ground our children to each other and the physical world around them in a way that the global community (internet and social media) cannot.

September and back-to-school season is a time to reconnect and connection can be a positive force in a child’s life for the long term. As parents, we can support the wonder, excitement and connection to education:

Back-to-school season also reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school, and playground. Motor vehicle crashes continue to lead the injury-related hospitalizations for children in the North. A community approach to safety develops our “connection protection”:

  • Make eye contact. Learn about pedestrian safety. Talk to kids while crossing the street about making eye contact or a connection with drivers. Look, listen, and be seen.
  • Use the crosswalk. Take the time to hold hands, connect, and walk with children while crossing; kids under age 10 are not ready to judge traffic safely and still rely on parents and drivers to protect them.
  • Slow down. Finally, view school zones as one last chance for an important connection. My 4-year-old thinks a 30 km/hr school zone is the slow zone by which he can wave goodbye to his sister for the day. For now, I will let him think that’s exactly what it is!
Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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A family’s plan to prevent drowning

Family in a canoe

Paddling is a fun northern activity for so many families in our region! When you are on, in, or near the water, be sure to wear a life-jacket!

July 17-23, 2016 is National Drowning Prevention Week. Parachute Canada has some important information that really frames this topic for me:

Did you know?

  • Children under 18 are at greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls.
  • Drowning can happen in an instant.

I want to encourage everyone to have a safe summer, but I know that talking to parents about safety can be tricky. It only takes media coverage of one injured child to spark all sorts of harsh judgements and criticisms of parents. Sometimes I wonder if what I write about childhood safety will be viewed as a criticism of things parents aren’t doing. I certainly hope not.

You see, I am also a parent of young children. I am not perfect, not even close. We have “close calls” or times when I feel we have come far too close to one of my children experiencing a preventable injury. Every day, I wonder if I am enough for my children. What I can tell you is that when I parent without support or help, I am in fact setting myself up for failure. No single person is meant to be enough or everything for our children. There is a reason we say “it takes a community.” It really does!

When it comes to water safety, the same is true. No single plan is enough.

Water injuries are predictable. There are many ways to reduce the risk of drowning.

  • Children need to swim within arms’ reach. Drowning is often silent. When kids get into trouble, they do not call, wave or signal; all of their energy is used just keeping their head above water. Visit the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch) for more information.
  • Actively supervise all children around water. According to the Red Cross, the absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. An older sibling is no substitute for parent supervision.
  • Wear a properly fitted life-jacket every single time kids are on a boat. Young children and weak swimmers should wear a life-jacket on, near, or in the water. Want to learn how to properly fit a life-jacket? SmartBoater.ca has you covered with great video tutorials!
  • Learn to swim. Learning to swim and play safely around water is a life skill in Canada. Enrol in swim lessons at the local pool.

This isn’t a menu of options, where you just pick one. These are multiple ways to protect children and prevent drowning that can all be used together. Even though I may teach my child to ask permission to enter the lake every time, there will always be the one time it gets forgotten. I will blink, look away, and get distracted countless times. Relying on many strategies or supports is not a sign of weakness, it is responsible parenting. And it drastically decreases the risks of incident for my children.

So, parents, you do not have to do it alone! Use whatever resources are available to make sure that water play is safe play!

Want a new tool to add to your water safety plan? Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to win a life-jacket!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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We all have a role to play in safety!

Looking for easy to understand information on keeping children safe?

The Parachute Canada website is not just for me to use in my work as an Injury Prevention Lead. It is for me as a parent, as an auntie, and as a community member! And it’s for you! When you have a few minutes, check it out! And what better time than Safe Kids Week?

Safety at home

As kids grow, the hazards change. Did you know that falls are the number one cause of injury in the home? Don’t let their first roll be off the change table. Get tips for safety at home!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety at play

When seasons change, the sport activity changes. Any jarring force to the body or head that causes the brain to knock against the skull can cause concussion. Would you know what to do? Get tips for safety at play!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety on the road

Always use the correct car seat or booster seat on every ride, even short trips close to home. When was the last time you checked to see if the seat you use is meeting the growing needs of your child? Get tips for safety on the road!

Parachute Canada poster

The Parachute Canada website is for everyone. We all have a role to play in safety!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Getting ready for Safe Kids Week 2016: Highlighting preventable injuries

Girl wearing life-jacket at the beach.

2016 is the 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week! Community toolkits to support local events will be released by Parachute Canada on April 18, 2016.

You wouldn’t know it by looking outside at the driving rain that is pouring down my office window, but at the end of March, northwest B.C. saw some of the warmest weather in history. Warm spring weather always sets the stage for another great season of outdoor activity and play.

With lots of new outdoor activities available to us, spring is also a great time of year to talk about childhood injuries. Injuries are the leading cause of death for children and are a leading cause of hospitalizations. Injuries don’t happen by accident. They occur in repetitive and predictable patterns; injuries are preventable.

You may think I’m putting a damper on the enjoyment of the season, but awareness is a form of prevention! The real tragedy is when fun is affected by the serious injury of a loved one. We can change the statistics.

Parachute is a national charitable organization dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives in Canada. From May 30 – June 5, 2016, Parachute Canada will be celebrating 20 years of injury prevention awareness for children and families through Safe Kids Week. This year, Safe Kids Week will be raising awareness and sharing information to prevent injuries:

  • At home (burns, poisoning, falls, water)
  • At play (concussions, falls)
  • On the road (bicycles, motor vehicles, pedestrians)

I hope that you’ll join me in saving the date! Community Toolkits for this year’s Safe Kids Week will be available from the Parachute Canada Safe Kids Week website on April 18, 2016. Order your toolkit and join Northern Health as we work together to keep our children safe!

Our winter seasons are long in the north, so taking the time each spring to review safe activity and play with our families is worth it!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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