Falls may not seem like an overwhelming source of danger, but the reality is that each year, every one in three adults age 65 or older will unintentionally fall.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.5 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries and 700,000 are hospitalized on an annual basis. Because an estimated 6 out of 10 falls occur at home, all in-home care plans should include a thorough strategy for fall prevention.
While many falls are linked to balance, muscle weakness, reflexes and sensory problems, there are many measures that can be taken to prevent environment-related falls, particularly inside a home. By considering some of the major in-home causes of falls and the tips below, you will reduce the risk of falling for yourself or for a loved one by addressing common household tripping or falling hazards.
Safeguard Stairs & Steps
It’s no surprise that stairs and steps are one of the major areas where you can reduce risk of falling for older adults. Mustering up the leg strength to travel up or down a set of stairs can naturally be a challenge for older individuals, and the added height of a fall in these locations makes injury much more likely.
For homes with full staircases or even a single step, it’s important to:
• Install hand railings on one or both sides
• Ensure steps are level and adequately wide
• Ensure areas with steps are well lit
• Identify any loose carpet on stairs and steps
Bolster Bathroom Safety
Water and tile floor naturally create an unsafe environment for older adults, making bathrooms one of the most common areas for falls. Whether it’s the shower, bathtub, toilet or even tile floor throughout the bathroom, all areas of the bathroom can potentially pose a problem for aging adults.
To reduce risk of falls in bathrooms:
• Use nonskid mats in all bath tubs and showers
• Provide a sit-down space for stand-up showers
• Use hand rails or grab bars in or near bathtubs, showers and toilets
• Use well-secured, non-slip bathmats to prevent slipping on wet tile
Be Aware of Pets
Sure, Mittens is an adorable cat, but his favorite sleeping spot at the top of the staircase makes for quite the fall hazard. According to the CDC, pets account for more than 85,000 fall injuries each year (for all ages), and 88% of those injuries are associated with dogs.
However, there’s no need to get rid of pets to ensure a home is fall-proof, and taking away an aging loved one’s canine or feline friend could be quite traumatic for all parties. With that being said, there are some pet-related measures that can be taken to reduce risk of falls. It’s helpful to:
• Outfit all cats and dogs with bell collars, making their presence more obvious
• Enroll dogs in obedience courses to ensure they obey commands and can be easily directed away from high-risk areas
• Ensure pet toys and dishes do not block walkways
Make Everyday Items Easy to Access
Leaving your mother’s baking goods in the highest cabinet in the kitchen is a recipe for disaster. Make sure everyday necessities are easily accessible for aging adults living at home. A few suggestions:
• Prevent any situation where a step stool or ladder is needed to access items
• Make common, everyday items easily accessible
• Refrain from putting necessities in cabinets that are too high, deep or low to the ground
Clear Pathways of Clutter
When a pathway is obstructed by personal items, electrical cords, pet toys, keepsakes or other objects, it can pose a problem for older adults. Try these tips:
• Keep floor clutter to a minimum throughout the entire house
• Ensure electrical cords and wires are not obstructing pathways
• Regularly clear floors and walkways
• Dedicate adequate space for item storage
Secure All Rugs and Mats
You don’t need someone to “pull the rug out from under you” to slip or fall on a rug or a mat. Unsecured rugs and mats pose a strong risk for falls, making them a priority when it comes to fall prevention at home. To reduce the likelihood of a fall:
• Ensure rugs and mats are totally flat on the floor – no bumps or folds
• Use anti-slip pads or adhesive to ensure rugs and mats do not move
Install Adequate Lighting
As we age, our vision naturally weakens, making lighting essential for safe navigation throughout a home. To counteract vision trouble and reduce fall risk:
• Ensure high-risk areas like staircases or bathrooms are well lit
• Provide adequate night-time lighting for hallways and entrances to the bathroom or kitchen
Using the fall prevention at home guidelines above, aging adults are much less likely to fall. While older adults may still be susceptible to falls due to health reasons, an ongoing in-home care plan can help to proactively remove tripping hazards, reducing the risk of fall injuries.
At SameAddress, our CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) Builder provides a thorough evaluation of an older adult’s living situation, including potential fall hazards their home might contain. For safety for aging adults and peace of mind for relatives and loved ones, learn more about In-Home Care here, contact us on our website or call one of our aging-in-place specialists at 1-866-SENIOR-1.