Tips to Make the Stairs Safer for Seniors

Published by Stephen on November 30, 2008 Under fall prevention

For seniors, sometimes doing things like climbing the stairs or getting up out of a chair can become more difficult with age. This can be due to medical conditions, like arthritis and Alzheimer’s, that can make an individual unsteady on their feet or make movements painful. As a result of these kinds of limitations, the risk of a fall is increased, as is the chance of a serious injury. There are many areas of the home that can dangerous, but the stairs present the largest danger spot in the home.

Every year, falls on the stairs are responsible for many serious injuries among seniors. Often due to conditions like osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become brittle, even small low impact falls can result in a serious injury. This is why it is very important to prevent falling accidents on the stairs and around the home.

There are several steps that should be taken to reduce the risk of a fall on the stairs.

  • The Handrail: Whenever possible, two handrails are better than one. They should be tightly secured to the wall and at an easy height to grab. The circumference of the handrail should not be too much longer that six inches, as anything more makes grabbing the banister much more difficult.
  • Slippery Stairs: A slippery surface on the stairs is one of the most common causes of falls.  A non-skid surface should be installed onto the stairs to reduce the chance of a fall. Often carpet runners are installed the length of the staircase. The runner should be very short carpet that is woven very tightly. Individual runners are also available that fit onto the tops of the steps. These runners are installed one per stair. It is best to tightly secure the runners to the stairs, even if they have a non-skid backing. If the corner of the runner gets turned up, it can be easily tripped on. Tape is also sometimes used. A brightly colored and textured tape can be installed to mark the stairs or other areas that have a change in elevation. It is a good idea to use a different colored tape on the first and last steps, while using the same color tape for the steps in between.
  • Proper Lighting: Having a well lit staircase is very important. Use a bright lift that covers the entire stairwell and the landings. An easy to find light switch should be available at the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Use a Lifting Aid: Often the staircase is too long or the individual is simply not able to safely use it, so a lifting aid can be installed. The most cost effective lifting aid is often a stair lift, which carries an individual up and down the steps. Elevators are also available.
  • Non-Skid Shoes: Wearing shoes with a non-skid surface is good practice in almost all areas in the home, including the stairs.
  • Keep the stairs Clean: It is important to not get in the habit of leaving items on the stairs. Instead, they should always be kept clear.
  • Pay Attention: Always take care when climbing the stairs. Take your time and if you have had anything to drink, do not attempt to use the stair.

The stairs can be a very dangerous part of the home, but accidents can be prevented. If you or someone you love is at increased risk of a fall, you should take a little time to make your stairs safer.

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