Though your home is a place of comfort, unfortunately, statistics show that 60% of falls occur at home. Furthermore, risks related to the physical environment are the leading cause of falls among older people – causing 30-50% of falls. Luckily, there are steps you can take to limit the hazards at home. The most common dangers are associated with: lighting, bathroom, flooring/stairs and home exterior, thus this guide has been separated accordingly.
Flooring / Stairs
Flooring-related issues pose some of the biggest threats to seniors. The most common issues include:
- poorly-laid carpet
- narrow, uneven, or excessively high stairs
- loose rugs or electrical wires
- slippery or uneven floors
- discontinuous/poorly-fitted handrails
To prevent falling, walking surfaces should be flat, slip resistant and free of objects like boxes, appliances, cords, etc. Carpeting should be low pile and free of holes or wear that would cause slips. Place slip-resistant mats in the kitchen and bathroom or other places where spills are common. Instead of straining to reach higher cupboards, try using a step stool. Lastly, ensure that there are sturdy handrails on both sides of all stairs.
Lighting should be bright and evenly-spaced throughout the home to minimize the risk of falling. To reduce harsh glare, install frosted bulbs or indirect lighting. Make sure there are light switches at both the top and bottom of stairways. If not, keep a working flashlight on hand. Place nightlights in the hallways so you can see better when manoeuvring at night.
Risks outside the home include: uneven, cracked or irregular sidewalks leading to the residence, inadequate lighting and inconvenient doorsteps. To mitigate these risks, make sure there are handrails for the stairs. Ensure the path to the door is safe and well-lit by putting exterior lights on a timer or motion sensor if you come home after dark. Have someone clear branches in the fall and sprinkle salt on icy sidewalks/driveways if you live in a cold climate.
Bedroom / Bathroom
There are so many ways to modify the bedroom and bathroom to make them safer. Install grab rails in the bathtub or next to the toilet. You can also adjust your toilet seat and bed to a height that makes it easier to stand up. Another way: consider getting a bed that elevates the upper body. This helps prevent a sudden decrease in blood pressure when sitting up, which can result in falling. Keep a flashlight and telephone within arm’s reach of the bed to make getting up at night safer. Sleep with your Nano emergency pendant on so you can access help quickly if necessary. Seniors should also watch out for sharp/unmarked edges and unstable furniture.
These are just a few simple ways to prevent falls. Combine these tips with an Epic PERS solution to ensure your safety. Epic Safety believes everyone deserves to age at home comfortably and in the presence of loved ones and wants to empower you to do so with grace and dignity. If you would like to read the fall prevention studies and articles that informed this guide, see our list of sources below.
Consumer Product Safety Commission – Safety for Older Consumers – Home Safety Checklist
WHO Global Report Risk Factors for Falls and Effective Intervention for Older People
Falls In Older People: Epidemiology, Risk Factors and Strategies for Prevention