The National Council on Aging reports that one out of four Americans aged 65 years or older experiences a fall each year.
In many cases, an elderly family member or friend may keep an incident of falling to themselves and stop participating in normal life activities, like gardening, traveling, and others out of fear from falling.
A survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has found that about 75% of “adults age 50 and older” want to age in place, and there are solutions that can help then stay safe while living at home, in a community, or with a family member or friend.
One of the first steps that can be taken for preventing falls is to remove hazards in the home. We share some ways you can help make their homes safer and a better place for continuing life’s activities.
1. Check and Remove Any Trip Hazards
Common trip hazards like rugs, shoes, and clothing need to be checked and organized. If there are any rugs in the home without a slip-resistant backing, you can purchase padding and add to the bottom or find a non-skid rug as a replacement. Other fall hazards that can easily be organized are shoes that can be sorted on a rack and loose clothing, which should be hung in the closet.
2. Check Elevated Places in the Home
Certain places like door thresholds, steps, and bathtubs can be trouble-spots for seniors. Particularly, check entryway thresholds like the front door and garage door to see if they are elevated. If there are steps in or around the home, one alternative that can help is by adding a ramp. For indoor staircases, a lift chair is an option if moving between floors is an issue. For bathtubs with a raised side, you may want to purchase a stepping stool with a handrail or consider a remodeling alternative like a step-in tub. MedicalAlertAdvice.com reports that “one third of adults age 60 and over have difficulty climbing into or out of their bathtub or shower.” You can help make this easier for them by making sure to check elevated places that can present a problem.
3. Install Handrails in Bathrooms
Another way to help seniors as they move around through the house are handrails, which are especially helpful in bathrooms. Handrails can help seniors to steady and balance themselves. Areas like the bathroom and kitchen can pose a fall hazard, making it important to keep the floors slip-free.
4. Ensure Proper Lighting Indoors and Outdoors
As a natural part of aging, our eyesight quality diminishes, causing us to misjudge areas. Making sure that there’s proper indoor and outdoor lighting in the home can help with preventing falls and misjudgments. For the interior, consider adding wireless motion-sensing lights to the walls or plug-in lights in the hallways. For the exterior, consider solar-powered lights or smart lights that can be scheduled to turn on and off at certain times of the day.
5. Make Sure Everyday Items Are Within Reach
Keep your loved one from having to reach into a tall cabinet or other hard-to-reach areas by keeping their everyday items in places that are easy to get to. For medicines and hygiene items, they can be stored on a low shelf in the medicine cabinet and on the counter-top in an organizer. This will keep them from having to reach up or down to get those items. In the kitchen, keep spices, bowls, dishes, pots, and pans organized in easy-to-access areas like a counter-top organizer or on the bottom shelf of wall cabinets.
6. A Medical Alert System or Device Can Help
Medical alert systems today are becoming more innovative and helpful for users with automatic fall detection, mobile wearables, and more. Medical alert providers tailor their products based on individual lifestyle, whether more time is spent at home or some time is spent traveling. There are in-home medical alert systems, mobile devices, and medical alerts with GPS for those who travel and may need assistance. Pendants with automatic fall detection are designed to connect seniors with an operator in the event of a fall for assistance.
Additional Home Hazards to Be on the Lookout For
Other home hazards to be cognizant of with seniors aging in place include monitoring for smoke, fires, carbon monoxide, and water leaks. It can be easy to sometimes forget leaving the stove on or checking under cabinets for water leaks. There are devices like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and water leak sensors that can also help. If you or your loved one has a home security system, they may be able to purchase compatible home hazard monitoring devices to help.
We hope these tips can help you or an elderly loved one in assessing home and personal safety for living an enriching life.