Around the world, the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths are falls.
The greatest number of fatal falls occur among people who are 60 years of age or older. While most are nonfatal, these accidents are still capable of causing permanent disability and other issues.
Luckily, there is a long list of things you can do to help reduce the risk of older Americans falling in your home, and a number of things seniors can do to keep themselves strong and healthy.
Let's take a look at our home safety checklist for seniors.
Common Hazards That Can Cause Falls
The leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for elderly Americans is falling. This year, one out of every four older Americans will fall.
There are a number of reasons why elderly people are more likely to fall than people of younger ages. Sometimes this happens because of physical issues with the body, which is referred to as an intrinsic risk factor. There are also extrinsic risk factors, which are things in the environment that caused the fall or trip.
The consequences of falling can be quite serious and even life-threatening. An older person who falls might obtain injuries such as cuts, bruises, bone fractures, or even fatal brain damage.
When a person becomes disabled because of a fall, it can lead to the loss of some of their independence. This makes it so some older adults are so afraid of having another fall that they avoid leaving their house at all costs.
Some of the intrinsic risk factors of falling include:
Vertigo or other balance disorders
Fear of falling
Chronic conditions or diseases, such as diabetes, stroke, or Parkinson's disease
Some of the extrinsic risk factors for falling include:
Lack of grab bars or railings
Uneven stairs or floors
Obstacles on the ground
Improper use of walkers or canes
Reaction to medication
Things like frayed or loose rugs, broken furniture, and clutter on the floor are common causes of falling. Outdoor hazards like uneven walkways, hoses, or ice also increase the risk of an elderly person falling.
The Kitchen Area
Now that we've talked about common causes of falls, it's time to move to the kitchen. Here is our elderly home safety checklist for the kitchen:
Make sure that all dishes, food, and cooking equipment is stored at a level that is easy to reach, around waist high
Make sure there are no throw rugs that could cause a tripping hazard
Make sure there is no grease, liquid, or food spilled on the floor that could cause a slip
Use non-skid floor wax on the floor if it hasn't been done already
Make sure you have a step stool with a handrail that can be used in order to reach upper cabinets
Make sure a countertop toaster oven is available to minimize trying to reach an oven or leaning over
You'll also want to make sure that the step stool you have is steady. It's important that you never try to substitute a chair for a step stool, as this is an easy way to fall.
Around 80% of the falls that happen at home occur in the bathroom. For this reason, it's important to ensure that the bathroom is equipped with the safety measures necessary to avoid that outcome.
Some of the things you should look for in keeping the bathroom safe for seniors include:
Putting non-skid adhesive texture strips on the shower or bathtub floor
Using a suction or mounted liquid soap dispenser on the wall of the shower or bathtub
Having a slip-resistant rug right next to the shower or bathtub
Putting grab bars on the walls of the bathroom along the shower or bathtub or near the toilet
Installing a toilet seat with armrests or a raised toilet seat to help maintain balance when getting up and down
Having a mirror over the sink that is extra long so that it can be used when sitting
It's important to realize that bathrooms can be a dangerous place for elderly people. The surfaces are wet, the floors are slick, and the space is small. On top of that, all of the objects are made out of hard materials.
Most bathroom falls occur when a person is using the toilet or getting in and out of the shower or tub.
If you're making a home elderly safe, you'll also want to turn some attention towards the bedrooms.
First, you'll want to make sure that there are nightlights places along the path between the bathroom and the bedroom
You'll also want there to be a telephone, flashlight, and lamp close enough to the bed that they can be reached while in bed. Additionally, using a raised mattress can help elderly people more easily get in and out of bed.
Lastly, you'll want to make sure that there is never any clutter on the floor. Clutter is a major tripping hazard and can lead to a fall.
Stairways and Step Safety
Making stairs safe for elderly people is another thing you'll want to focus on. Some of the things you'll want to look out for are:
Making sure objects are never kept on the stairs
Making sure none of the steps are uneven or broken
Making sure the stairway is adequately lit and installing another switch if necessary to make turning on the lights more accessible
Making sure the stairway lightbulb works and isn't burned out
Making sure any carpet on a staircase isn't torn or loose and ensuring that their are non-slip rubber treads on the stairs
Making sure the handrails aren't loose or broken, also making sure there are handrails on both sides of the stairs
Stairs can present a huge hazard to elderly Americans. For this reason, it's a good idea to take extra care with the stairs when learning how to protect the elderly in your home.
Other Things You Can Do to Prevent Falls
What else can you do to prevent falls?
There are a number of things that elderly people can do to help minimize the risk of falls. These include:
Getting regular exercise, as it can help improve your balance and coordination as well as making you stronger
Having your vision checked regularly by an eye doctor, at least once a year, as poor vision can increase the risk of falling
Having your pharmacist or doctor take a look at your medication and ensure that they don't cause dizziness or sleepiness
Getting up slowly after lying down or sitting
Having a medical alert system that you can use to call help if you do fall and can't get up
Wearing shoes when you are both outside and inside the house and avoiding slippers
There are also some things that can be done to the home to provide more assurance against falling. These include:
Having uniform lighting in your home
Reducing glare by handing shades or lightweight curtains
Keeping all emergency numbers close to each phone in large print
Putting a phone near the floor so you can call for help if you fall and can't get up
Painting the top edge of every step a contrasting color so the stairs are easier to see
As you can see, there are a number of things older adults can do to prevent falls and other safety concerns while they are in their home. It is also beneficial to exercise regularly and eat healthily so that you're less likely to fall or sustain injuries if you do fall.
General Security Concerns
While slipping and falling is a major concern for elderly Americans, it isn't the only safety concern that is relevant. Some of the other top safety issues in senior homes include fire, electric shock, medicine and accidental poisoning, and improper lighting.
Older adults should consider getting a home security system to help protect them from security risks. These systems not only can alert you to potential intruders, but they can also warn when there are frozen pipes, carbon monoxide, smoke, and more.
This is also a great choice for older Americans because it gives away for relatives and caregivers to monitor the home if necessary. Home security systems now often come with apps, which can alert you if something is wrong.
They can also be useful during a medical emergency as they often have panic buttons that contact the authorities right away.
FAQs About Home Safety For Elderly Family Members
Still interested in learning more about how to help protect the elderly in your home? There are a few frequently asked questions we haven't touched on yet, so let's take a look.
What Is a Home Safety Assessment?
A home safety assessment is a thorough evaluation of any of the potential hazards that are present on your property. This might be anything that could lead to a fire, personal injury, or flooding. Additionally, it will determine if there are any hazards to your safety because of factors making it easier for an intruder to enter your house.
(Wondering how to help prevent a house break-in? Check out our article on the topic here.)
This is a great way to understand what actionable steps you need to take in order to make sure that your home is as safe as possible.
You can also get a free security assessment, which looks at how security systems could help keep your house and family safe.
How Can I Fall Proof My House?
Following the elderly home safety checklist above, you can help to prevent falls from occurring in your home. These include things like:
Improving lighting and access to light switches
Having handrails on each side of the stairs and ensuring that they aren't broken or damaged
Keeping floor space tidy of clutter and free of rugs that could be tripped over
Making sure that all carpets in the home are fixed firmly to the floor
Mounting grab bars in the bathroom and use non-skid mats on any surface that could get wet
Placing nightlights around the home
Keeping a telephone and flashlight close to the bed
Keeping telephone wires and electric cords out of walking paths
These steps and those listed above can help make sure that the likelihood of falling in your home is much lower.
What Is a Risk Factor For Falls in Older Adults?
There are a number of risk factors that make it more likely that older adults will fall. These include:
Vestibular disorder/poor balance
Foot or ankle disorder
Vitamin D insufficiency
In most cases, falls are actually caused by a combination of a number of factors. The more of these risk factors an individual has, the higher their risk of falling is.
Are You Looking For a Medical Alert System to Fit Your Lifestyle?
This home safety checklist for seniors can help you ensure that your home is as free from falling hazards as possible. Depending on how many risk factors you have for falling, you might be more or less likely to trip in your own home. That being said, falls can happen to anyone, and it's best to fall-proof your home to the best of your abilities.
If you do fall, having a medical alert system can be a literal life-saver. Is it time for you to get protection when you're home and when you're on the go? Take a look at our medical alert systems for every lifestyle today!