Keeping a home safe and free from areas that could cause a fall is very important for people of any age, however it is even more so for seniors and the elderly. This is because there are many diseases that are more common in seniors, such as arthritis and glaucoma, which can greatly increase the risk of a fall.
Seniors bones are also in many instances more brittle due to osteoporosis, so a low impact fall will often result in a broken bone, further highlighting the importance of making the home safer for seniors.
All areas of the home should be addressed and made to be safer, with special attention paid to the stairs and steps, as this is the most common source of falls and injuries among the elderly.
The outside area of the home should be well lit and paths to all doors should be clear and free of potential obstacles. Walkways should be wide enough that there is little chance that the senior will trip or stumble on the edge of the walkway.
Using motion sensor lights outside can be very helpful, as this way the lights will automatically cut on, without the senior needing to find the light switch. They can also add an extra sense of security. It is important that the motion sensor lights are sensitive enough that they will turn on as the senior walks up and they should stay on for enough time to allow the senior to enter the home. Both the sensitivity and time can be adjusted on any quality motion sensor light, so ensure that this is a feature.
In homes with garages, sufficient lighting is also important and motion sensor lights can also be used. It is also important that a clear path always remains to the door and that the garage does not become cluttered with stored items, which could block this path.
Having adequate and easy to use lighting is also important for the kitchen. It is also important to try to store items in the kitchens on shelves and in cupboards that the senior can reach without having to use a stepping stool, as this is a common source of senior falls in the kitchen.
If it is necessary to use a stepping stool, ensure that it is well made, features arm rails, and has very wide steps. Under no circumstances should a senior feel that they must stand on a chair to help reach an item, as this is be very dangerous.
It is also a good idea to spend some time organizing the kitchen in a way that similar items are grouped together and easy to find. Falls due to water are not as common in the kitchen as they are in the bathroom, but it is still important to consider them. Using a non-slip bath mat may be a good idea in front of the kitchen sink.
Again, lighting is important, but it is more important that the living room has adequate paths to the TV, furniture, and doors. There should be no tight squeezes to get to any area of the living room, so this may mean getting rid of extra furniture, such as tables and stands.
For seniors who can not stand on their own, it is possible to purchase a lift chair, which offers functionality similar to that of a recliner, but also raises to help make it easier for the senior to stand.
In homes with brick fireplaces and brick hearths, it is a good idea to place the furniture that is commonly used far enough away from the fireplace that if the senior does fall, they do not hit the hearth.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home for seniors, as it not only has wet slippery surfaces, but it also has a number of very hard and often sharp surfaces, which are unforgiving if fallen against.
It is important to make use of grab bars throughout the bathroom and especially in the shower, outside of the shower, and around the toilet. The grab bars must be well secured to the wall and small enough that the senior can easily grasp them. Under no circumstances should the senior ever need to rely on a towel rod as a grab bar, as these are not anchored to the wall sufficiently to prevent a fall.
Having non-skid mats throughout the bathroom is also important, including in the shower, in front of the shower, and by the toilet.
There are also lifting aids available for those that have trouble getting into and out of the bathtub or using the toilet. Specifically, bath lifts and toilet seat lifts are commonly used.
The stairs are the most dangerous area in the home for the elderly, so special attention should be paid to making the staircase safer. Lighting is very important and there should be light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs, so it is never necessary to climb the stairs in the dark.
The handrails should be small enough that they can be easily grasped and smooth, so there is no fear of splinters. Having two handrails, with on on either side of the staircase, has been shown to reduce the risk of a fall.
Using a textured tape that is in a very bright color can also make the individual steps easier to see and feel. Consider using high contrast colors between steps, so it is easier to differentiate between different steps. At the top landing and the last step, a special color should be used, so that the senior can tell when they are at the end of the stair case.
Loose carpet runners and throw rugs should also be removed from the staircase, as these can slide and if the edge of the carpet turns up, it can offer a tripping hazard.
For seniors who are simply unable to safely use the stairs, stair lifts are available, which carry the senior up the staircase in a chair.
This should not only apply to long staircases, but also the front steps of the home, as well as any other areas that have a step down.
The bedroom is often overlooked when making the home safer, but it can be dangerous for a senior, especially one with arthritis. This is because a common symptom of arthritis is morning pain, so when the senior first wakes up, if they try to stand right away, the risk of a fall could be increased.
There are special bed standing aids, which can be attached to the frame of the bed and provide several easy hand holds for the senior to use to help make standing easier.
Extra furniture should be removed and an effort made to avoid leaving clothes on the floor. It is a good idea to invest in a hamper for dirty clothes, so there is no worry that they might simply end up on the floor. Items stored in the closet, such as shoes, should be easy to reach and nothing should be stored on shelves that require a stepping stool to access.
Having a phone and light within easy reach of the bed is important as well, with the light having an easy to use switch.
In all areas of the home, it is important to remove loose rugs, as these can slide or the edge turn up, resulting in a fall. Having adequate lighting is also very important.
In any area where there might be water, such as by the entrance to the home or in the laundry room, having non-skid mats down is a good idea. Placing handrails in common areas around the home is also a good idea.