In most areas of the home, there are a number of factors that can come into play and increase the risk of a fall for a senior. However, of all areas, falls and serious injuries are most common on the staircase for seniors who are older than 65.
There are several reasons for this, but the added difficulty of navigating not just one step, but usually at least 10, is one of the main reasons that falls on the stairs are so common for seniors. Also, due to the nature of the staircase, there is a much higher risk that if a fall occurs the senior will fall a greater distance and hit a hard surface, which is why it is very common for falls on the stairs to result in broken hips or knees.
In a home with stairs, it is very important to determine what sort of risk is presented to the senior, as well as making an effort to help reduce the risk of a fall occurring. One of the first steps should be evaluating the seniors own abilities to use the stairs, as factors such as Alzheimer’s or arthritis, can greatly increase the risk that a fall will occur. Limited eye site can also greatly increase the risk of a fall, as it is easy to miss a step or not realize you are at the end of the stairs, causing a fall.
It is also very important to take time to evaluate the safety and condition of the staircase itself. A staircase that is in poor repair can be just as dangerous to a senior, so it is very important to watch out for loose boards or uneven steps, which might increase the risk of an accident.
Having a solid handrail can also reduce the risk of a fall, with dual handrails, one on each side, being shown to be much safer for the elderly. The handrail should also be easy to grasp, so it should not be too big or made of very rough material.
For seniors with limited vision, adding a very bright high contrast grip tape to the steps can also be a good idea. By alternating colors, it can make it much easier to tell where one step ends and the next begins, as well as providing a rough surface that provides more traction. This is where the gritty grip tape comes in. It can also be a good idea to use a separate color tape at the top and bottom step, so it is easier to tell when the staircase ends.
Another option, to improve staircase safety and usability, is to install a stair lift. The stair lift is a tool that actually carries the senior up or down the stairs, most often using a simple plastic chair and track system. Stair lifts can be attached to most staircases without any major modification and provide a motorized lifting system to effortlessly move the senior up the stairway.
Since the staircase presents such a risk to the elderly, it is important to make using it as safe and easy as possible. However, in some cases, often due to the limited abilities of the senior, it may be better to avoid the stairs all together. In cases such as this, even using a lifting aid like the stair chair, can not be preformed safely, so it is better to adjust the lifestyle of the senior, so they can still preform all essential daily activities, without relying on the stairs.