Do you have an aging parent or grandparent who needs to take safer precautions at home? Whether a loved one lives independently or is moving in with you, it’s essential to know that one out of four seniors falls each year, resulting in serious injuries, broken bones and even head injuries.
So what can we do to protect our loved ones? Here is how to modify your home to prevent dangerous falls. Many of these slip-proof tips and tricks are inexpensive and easy to implement in homes with seniors and elderly family members, from replacing rugs with adaptive clothing to installing motion-activated lighting.
Consider the Flooring First
One of the best ways to modify your home to prevent falls is to simply remove rugs. Rugs are a major tripping hazard, even for the most graceful of us. While rugs do offer a soft underfoot and some traction, there are better alternatives. For example, you can choose a warm, supportive pair of men’s non-slip socks for your senior dad or grandpa and, for your mom or grandmother, a pair of Velcro shoes for women.
While it might seem extreme, replacing your floors can solve lots of issues. Older flooring may have uneven surfaces, bumps and cracks from settling or more, which can cause shuffling feet to trip. So, if your flooring could use an update, consider something with more traction and texture. Overall, remove any ledges or thresholds, choosing softer, low-profile styles between rooms and exterior passageways that are more ramp-like.
Add Dual Railing and Treads to Stairs
When it comes to stairs, seniors need all the help they can get. All stairways within a home should have a railing on each side. Also, be sure to install or drop existing railings to elbow height and with a secure anchor.
Along with the railing, make sure to address the stairs themselves. If your stairs are covered in slick hardwood flooring, vinyl or laminate, it’s highly advised to add a non-slip tread or sticker to avoid slips. While you can find more aesthetically pleasing clear versions that blend into the flooring, seniors with vision issues will appreciate a contrasting color that helps improve each riser’s visibility.
Add Easy-to-Operate Lighting
Install nightlights around the home to help illuminate pathways. Should you or your loved one need to use the restroom in the middle of the night, a well-placed nightlight or two down the hallway or at the bathroom vanity will help them see their way. Just make sure to choose something brighter to help with poor vision. Also, consider a nightlight with a built-in timer or one that has an auto-motion sensor that makes it turn on after dark.
In general, make lighting more accessible and easier to operate. Touch-operated lamps offer a painless alternative for seniors with arthritic conditions or disabled elderly with less grip or dexterity in their hands. Having accessible lighting could also mean ceiling lights and fans with remote controls, which allow seniors to adjust brightness without having to make their way to the light switch after dark.
Adapt the Kitchen and Bathrooms
In the kitchen, make sure your loved one can reach items and appliances. Eliminate the need for a stepstool and make items reachable, stored in lower cabinets. Another great tip is to install pull-out shelving and drawers, reducing the need to bend over too far or reach, which could result in a fall. You may also want to consider dropping the countertops, making them more accessible to shrinking seniors or those with growing mobility issues who require wheelchair use.
As mentioned, it helps to add a nightlight in the bathroom. However, there are many other ways you can prevent falls in this particular part of the home. And since the bathroom can be the most dangerous room for slips and falls, it’s imperative to take these modifications into consideration.
For starters, it’s critical to install no-slip pads in the shower or tub. Standing in a wet shower or tub creates a slippery underfoot, so this is an essential step in fall prevention. Depending on the senior’s mobility, you may want to also add a shower chair, allowing them to rest. Inside the shower or shower/tub combo, make the hardware, faucets and body products all accessible, too, so they don’t have to stretch while reaching for shampoo or the showerhead.
There are also a few home modifications you could make outside of the shower. Install a surround for the toilet or some handlebars to help them stand and sit. You could also install a raised toilet. Of course, like the accessible showerhead, make sure that the seniors’ cosmetics, body products and medications are reachable within lower cabinets and drawers. Along the same lines, lower the vanity mirror as well.
Address the Bedrooms
Like the bathroom cabinets, you want to eliminate hard-to-reach areas that may cause seniors to fall trying to get to items. In the bedroom, this means dropping closet rods to a lower height and possibly rearranging any high shelves, whether they’re filled with books or photos of the grandkids. A walk-in closet also keeps clutter off the floor.
While some seniors might be fairly adept with modern technology and even have a cell phone for emergencies or to chat with family members, a backup landline phone is worth having. People forget to charge phones and, in the event of an emergency, a bedside phone could save their life.
Make sure the bed is not too high. (Hint: If they need a footstool to climb into bed, it’s time for a low-profile bed.) Replace higher bedframes with a low-profile design or invest in an adjustable style, helping them stand out of bed with ease. If the senior has more severe mobility issues or falls out of bed from time to time, you can also install rails to help them climb out of bed and secure them in the night.
Give your senior-aged loved ones the freedom to move about as they please. With these tips and tricks on modifying your home for fall prevention, you can rest easy knowing they are safe.