While wisdom certainly comes with age, so does the deterioration of our physical and cognitive abilities. This aging process can therefore leave many elderly individuals vulnerable to falls, accidents and injuries, even in their own home. To ensure that you or your loved ones are safe as you enter your twilight years, below are 10 ways to senior-proof the home and make it a safer place to live.
Falls Among Seniors
One of the major concerns for seniors are slips and falls in the home. Even if you or your loved ones are healthy, falls can be common as eyesight, coordination, and physical strength begin to degrade. Falls also pose a danger to an elderly person’s health as they can lead to hip or pelvic fractures. Even more worrying is the potential for fatal falls, such as if a person hits their head.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of four American seniors fall each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths and over 700,000 hospitalizations annually. Some other facts include:
1. Remove Trip Hazard Objects or Furnishings
While they may not be noticeable on an everyday basis, small objects or furnishings such as everyday clutter, pet bowls, bags, electrical cords and small décor can be prime instigators of falls. Before you set about senior-proofing the home, make sure these smaller items are removed permanently or put into locations that are out of harm’s way.
2. Upgrade Your Bathroom(s)
Bathrooms are one of the main areas for falls, even for those who are young. To ensure that the home is senior proof, you will need to upgrade the bathroom to accommodate areas that may be high risk. This includes adding a shower seat, installing grab bars, ensuring there are non-slip bathmats and shower mats, installing a raised toilet seat, and checking that the height of the bath is low enough for the elderly person who is using it.
3. Install Railings
Stairs can become difficult to climb as a person gets older. Therefore, if the home has a lot of stairs, it is important to ensure there are adequate railings installed. This includes even slightly raised areas that might only have 1 or 2 stairs. When installing your railing, make sure they are also at the right height so that the person using them is not having to reach too high or low.
4. Add Grab Bars
Grab bars are essential in areas of the home where seniors may need support or assistance standing up from seated positions. This includes the toilet, shower, bath, or even in the bedroom if they need something to hold onto while getting dressed or in and out of bed.
5. Create Clear Walking Areas
Seniors require extra room when making their way down hallways and through other areas of the house. Along with getting rid of clutter, ensure that the home is set up so that they have clear walkways to primary areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. This might require moving furniture around or removing furnishings to ensure that there is as much room as possible.
6. Cover Sharp Edges or Corners
Another danger associated with falling in the home are sharp edges or corners. Places like coffee tables, desks, or even corners on kitchen islands can be a hazard, so it is sensible to cover these with specially designed padding. Covering edges or corners are especially important if the elderly individual is already prone to falls and has restricted mobility.
7. Ensure the Home is Fire Safe
As we get older, it can be easy to forget to check that the house is fire safe. Be sure to update old fire alarms or replace batteries and ensure that there is a fire extinguisher on hand where needed. It is also important to check that there are no fire hazards in the house such as frayed wiring, overloaded sockets, crowded fireplaces, or even an accumulation of dust near electrical appliances.
8. Update Slippery Floors or Rugs
Ensuring that the floors are slip-proof is another important way to prevent falls. This includes getting rid of rugs that can slide under foot and replacing tiles or vinyl with carpet or slip-proof flooring. This may also require adding rubber mats to areas where you cannot replace the materials, such as in shower areas or bathrooms.
9. Add Smart Technology
Advances in smart technology allow the homeowner to manage things like lighting, temperature control, and turning appliances off and on without getting up. Many systems such as Alexa can turn on virtually any appliance in the house and regulate the heat and air conditioning. This is great news for seniors: rather than having to get up and turn the coffee machine on, for example, smart technology will allow them to use voice commands or an app on their phone. While incorporating smart technology can be a challenge at first, there are ways to do this gradually.
10. Ensure the House is Well Lit
Slips and falls can sometimes occur if a room is not well lit. Dark areas or poor lighting can make it difficult to see, so make sure that all walking areas are well lit. This is where smart technology can also help as it will allow the resident to adjust the lighting without physically walking to the light switch. If you are using basic bulbs in lamps and overhead lights, make sure you are also using the highest wattage possible. You may even want to invest in floor lighting or night lights.
Falls, slips, or accidents are never 100% avoidable, but the tips above can significantly reduce their occurrence. The key is to be accident-minded when evaluating any changes that need to be made in the home. By ensuring that falls are minimized, and that the home of your elderly loved one is relatively safe, it will give you more peace of mind.