Fall-Proof your Home and Make it Senior-Friendly
Falls by Seniors can be Deadly and Crippling
Many Falls Take Place in their own Homes
According to the National Institute on Aging, 6 out of 10 falls in seniors take place in their homes. Some falls are deadly, especially if they lead to a hip fracture or a serious head injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 300,000 seniors over age 65 are hospitalized every year for hip fractures and 2.8 million are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries. Hip fractures are very dangerous and many seniors with hip fractures die in the first year after a broken hip. Those that survive often are left permanently disabled. However, there are many simple steps that can be taken to prevent these falls.
Falls do not have to happen, especially in your own home!
Your day begins with getting out of bed in the morning and unfortunately some nasty falls can take place by seniors who fall out of bed or while getting out of bed.
Get up slowly to avoid getting dizzy.
You can install a bed-rail that is inserted between the mattress and the box spring, so that you have something sturdy to hold onto while getting in and out of bed. Another alternative is to buy a bed that has sturdy built-in wooden or metal guards designed to keep a someone from falling out of bed. You can grab onto these guards when getting in and out of bed.
Someone can install grab bars for you on the wall behind and near your bed.
You need to have good lighting and use a night-light in case you have to get up during the night to use the bathroom. Make sure the route to the bathroom is well-lit and clear of clutter. If you have to get up several times during the night to use the bathroom you might want to consider keeping a bed pan near your bed – or a chamber pot!
Keep a flashlight by your bed in case of a power outage.
Keep your phone near your bed and have emergency phone numbers printed out large enough to read without your eye glasses in case you cannot find your glasses.
If you are prone to falling a lot, have wall-to-wall carpeting put in your bedroom.
Some of the most deadly falls take place in the bathtub or in the shower stall. Keep non-slip shower mats in the bathtub and on the floor of the shower stall. Have grab bars installed on the walls for holding onto while climbing in and out of the bathtub or to hold onto while taking a shower. Remember soap can make even the tops of the non-slip bath mats slippery. Keep one hand on the grab bar while in the shower and use the other hand to hold a flexible shower hose. A fixed shower head may cause water to go into your eyes and make for poor visibility that could lead to a fall. If you find standing in the shower stall difficult use a shower chair to sit on.
Don’t wear your eye glasses in the shower. They will steam up and you will not be able to see.
Don’t use towel racks as grab bars – they are not strong enough to be used for more weight than is in a towel and they could give way and come out of the wall causing you a real mean fall. Also, make sure the grab bars are properly installed so that they will not loosen up.
Have grab bars installed near the toilet to make it easy to sit down or get up from sitting on the toilet. If you have bad knee or hip osteoarthritis you might need to use a raised toilet seat and preferably a soft one, as a hard toilet seat can increase the pain of hip arthritis.
You might find that using a small foot stool to support your feet while sitting on the toilet is helpful.
The ideal home for a senior would be one without stairs, but this is not always an option. Make sure to have sturdy hand rails installed on both sides of the stairs and always keep your hand on the rail when using the stairs. Have non-slip treads put on each stair. Make sure you have proper lighting at the top and the bottom of the stairs.
Put the items you use daily on easy-to-reach shelves. Use high shelves only for items you seldom use. Use a reacher rod (this is a special metal rod that can grab onto things and is available in all orthopedic stores and some hardware stores) to take things down from high shelves rather than climbing up on a step ladder. Also, use the reacher to pick things up from the floor to avoid bending down that could cause you to lose your balance. Using the reacher to pick things up from the floor will also save your back.
Sit on a chair at a table to cut vegetables, to make cakes, to stuff a turkey, etc. instead of standing up to do these things, as too much standing may make you tired and prone to falling.
Do not carry sharp knives or other sharp kitchen utensils in your hands while walking, as you could severely injure yourself if you fall while carrying them. Instead carry them in a covered basket or a covered plastic food storage container. If you fall you will most likely just drop the basket.
The Front Door
If you have steps going up to your front door make sure you have rails to hang onto when climbing the stairs.
Have good lighting.
Safety Tips for the Rest of the Home
Buy tables that are round or oval so that in case you fall you will not open your head on the corner of a table.
Do not use throw rugs that you could trip over. You can also trip over a non-slip rug, so either have wall-to-wall carpeting or do not use any rugs or mats at all.
If you are prone to falling or are afraid of falling, have a push-button bracelet to get immediate help from emergency services, especially if you live alone. These are available paid for monthly or yearly. Insurance may not cover the cost.
Don’t trip over your pets. A cat or dog on the stairs is the last thing you need. Sometimes a pet will suddenly dart in front of you when you are walking (especially a cat), so keep your eyes open.
Avoid clutter. Keep the floors free of all kinds of junk. Keep waste baskets far off and away from your walking routes.
Make sure there are no telephone wires or electrical wires on the floor. Keep these close to the wall.
Stay away from wet washed floors until they are dry.
Ask for help in changing light bulbs to avoid climbing on step ladders. Buy long-lasting LED light bulbs to avoid having to frequently replace and change light bulbs.
Don’t wait until you have a major fall to start to do some of these things to fall-proof your home. If you are a renter your landlord should not object to these safety features.