Falls are very dangerous for seniors. Every year one in three older Americans fall. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+, resulting in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. If you are caring for an aging loved one, It is important to “fall proof” your home, both inside and outdoors. To make your home safer, you can:
- Remove safety hazards in all rooms.
- Improve lighting.
- Install handrails and grab bars.
- Move items to make them easier to reach.
Here are some tips on how to carry out those “fall-proofing” strategies:
1. Remove anything that could cause your loved one to trip or slip while walking: It is easy to trip on clutter that has collected on the floor and the stairs. Small furniture may tip over and create a fall hazard. Dog bowls, electrical and phone cords can also create trip hazards. Throw rugs are especially dangerous because they can slip on the floor and can create an uneven floor surface for walking. Remove them from every room of the house.
2. Arrange furniture to provide plenty of walking room: A senior’s vision may begin to fade and narrow, and it is important to make sure that there is a lot of space between furniture for easy walking.
3. Put non-slip strips on floors and steps. It is important that every walking surface in the home be as non-slip as possible. It will help to place non-slip strips on stairs and a rubber mat on the floor of your bathtub or shower.
4. During the winter spread salt and sand on walkways and the driveway: Make sure that your loved one’s entry is cleared of snow and ice. This includes making sure that leaking gutters aren’t causing ice build-up near doors.
5. Good lighting is essential to preventing falls: Walk around your loved one’s home and take a quick inventory of lighting. When assessing outdoor lighting, make sure that it removes as many shadows as possible. Waning eyesight can’t decipher easily between shadow and light and that can result in falls. Good lighting on stairways both indoors and out is especially important with light switches at both the top and bottom of stairs.
Indoor lighting should include nightlights in all rooms and hallways. Lamps should be placed within easy reach of the bed and should have the highest wattage bulb allowed by the fixture. Place night lights in the bathroom, hallways, bedroom, and kitchen. Place a flashlight by the bed for extra safety.
6. Handrails and guardrails can prevent falls: Make sure that handrails are in place on both sides of stairs and walkways. Grab bars should be installed in the tub, shower and next to the toilet.
Preventing falls is one of the most important things you can do for the safety of your loved one. You can read more tips on preventing falls at the National Council on Aging and the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The Centers for Disease Control has a guide to preventing falls that can be downloaded for easy reading.