January 22, 2019

A serious fall can instantly change the life of older adults, even if they were previously in good health. As your parents and loved ones age, the consequences of falling can be severe; fractures, serious breaks, traumatic brain injury, and death can occur. This is why it’s important to make sure they live in a safe environment.

If you’re welcoming your aging parents, or other senior citizens, into your home, there are several simple, inexpensive steps you should take to ensure that they are safe from falls at home.

Avoid slip hazard

Wet floors caused by leaky plumbing, spills, and drips in the kitchen and bathroom are serious fall hazards. Make sure to mop up any excess water immediately and fix any water fixtures that need repair. Where water is regularly used, like in the bathroom and kitchen, use non-slip or rubber mats around the sink and in the shower or tub. Install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet for a little extra security, and consider purchasing a small stool for them to use while bathing. This way, they can choose to sit while they bathe, avoiding a potential fall risk while standing in the wet shower.

Maintain good lighting

Many older adults experience diminished eyesight as they age. Ensure that your house has excellent lighting, even if your parent or loved one has relatively good eyesight. Use bulbs with high wattage—the higher the better. Replace light fixtures that produce poor light in favor of those that distribute even, bright light. Be particularly vigilant about entrances, walkways, and staircases, as these are the areas that are most traversed in poor lighting. Night lights in hallways and bathrooms are also important, so that it’s easy to get around the house after dark.

Clear away clutter for open walking paths

Get rid of the clutter and organize your home as much as possible. Open up wide walking paths by rearranging any rooms that are over-crowded with furniture. Remove any small decorative pieces or unnecessary ornaments, and make sure that cords, pet bowls, and general clutter are completely out of the way. In reality, nothing should be on the floor that could be in a drawer, on top of a counter, or stowed away on a shelf. Carpets should be fully secured at the edges and corners, and decorative rugs should be either non-slip or affixed to the floor in some way. Double-sided tape is a good option here.

Secure your stairs

Stairs are one of the number one causes of household falls for older adults. If possible, make their living space on the bottom floor of your house to avoid stair use. If this isn’t a possibility, do your best to eliminate any trip hazards. To minimize this risk, put a strip of bright paint or colored tape on the last step of the staircase so that it is easily distinguishable. Ensure that the handrails are very sturdy and consider having one on both sides of the staircase. It is also essential that stairs are well-lit, with switches at each end of the case. This way, older loved ones don’t have to worry about tripping in the dark.

Focus on accessibility

Everyday items should be easily accessible to your aging loved ones; this will keep your mind at ease, while also allowing them to keep their independence. For example, move dishes and cookware in your kitchen so that they are easy to reach. This way, they can avoid using step stools, which are serious fall hazards. Ensure your furniture is easy to get in and out of—couches or chairs that are too squishy or low to the floor can be difficult to maneuver in older adults.

Finally, take preventative measures by making positive lifestyle changes. Encourage healthy eating and regular exercise, particularly those activities that support balance and lower-body strength.

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