Tips to prevent falls around your home
Common Home Modifications that Reduce the Risk of Falls
Did you know that the most common reason for hospitalizations of seniors in Canada is a fall around the house? For this reason, it is essential to have proper fall prevention education, including knowledge surrounding home modifications needed to keep seniors safe in their homes.
This article will cover some of the most common risk factors around the home and the modifications that can be made to make them safer. We’ll also go through your home and ask specific questions about the home’s safety.
Entryway residential ramps
As we age, simply getting into the home becomes much harder than it used to be. There may be too many steps, steep steps, or steps without a handrail. Sometimes as our mobility changes, we might require the assistance of a scooter or wheelchair, making taking the stairs up to your home very difficult.
There are two main different types of ramps: residential modular ramps and custom ramps. No matter what kind, ramps always have a non-skid surface and heavy-duty handrails to protect you.
A modular ramp comes in pieces and is assembled on-site. These come in many different sizes, and you’re sure to find one to fit your home. (photo)
A custom ramp is built with wood or other materials to match the customer’s home and their exact and unique needs. (photo)
Simple bathroom modifications to reduce fall risk
The next part of the home we will look at is the bathroom. Falls in the bathroom are common for people of any age. The slick tile, hot water, and steam inside a bathroom can make for a dangerous combination. Unfortunately, as we age, a simple slip can be much harder on our bodies than it used to be. We must do everything we can in the bathroom to avoid this happening.
Fall risk reduction In the shower and bath with a zero-step walk-in shower
First, let’s look at bathing. Modifications can be as simple as purchasing a shower stool so we can relax and not have to use as much lower body strength, grab bars to help us move around the shower, as well as stand and sit from the shower stool, and a handheld shower head to bring the water to us. Something else to consider for the shower is a zero-step walk-in shower. This option can get pricier as it usually requires significant modification. However, removing the need to step over a tall ledge or bath to get into the shower can greatly help many people. (photos)
Consider installing a bath bench if your shower is attached to a bathtub and you cannot change that. This particular bench is installed over the top of the tub’s edge. Using grab bars to get on and off of it, you can now sit down without making any modifications to your shower other than a handheld shower head. (photo)
Toilet-side grab bars
Another place in the bathroom that may need modification is around the toilet. Sometimes our toilets are very low, and it can be challenging to rise and sit down from them. So, a beneficial fix can be installing grab bars around the toilet. It’s essential that there are bars on the sides of the toilet, however, so if there is no wall or counter space to the side of your toilet, you will need to install a vertical grab bar that mounts to the wall and juts out beside your toilet. (photo) Of course, you can also look into installing a taller toilet or a seat riser, but grab bars are the most effective.
Grab bars make a huge difference in a slippery environment like the bathroom.
Use non-slip/non-skid strips on slippery floors.
Another helpful modification in slippery areas is non-slip/non-skid strips. Older homes and older bathtubs usually don’t come with non-slip areas built in. It’s a straightforward fix. You can purchase non-slip strips at any home improvement store. Simply apply them in the bathtub or slippery areas, but check them regularly for any wear and tear. Lifted strips can create a tripping hazard. (photo)
While you’re at it, consider buying some larger non-skid strips for the outdoor steps or uncarpeted stairs. These surfaces can quickly become very slick, which will solve that problem.
Use lever door handles to make it easier to open doors.
Many homes have rounded doorknobs. While this may have been no problem for you in the past, it can be tough to grasp and turn a rounded knob if issues like arthritis have arisen. It’s significantly harder to grasp a door knob if you’re coming from the bathroom or kitchen and your hands are slippery. Not only is it frustrating, but it could be dangerous if there is an emergency. Luckily, a straightforward solution to this is to install lever door handles. You can either purchase a lever cover that goes over an existing knob or purchase a lever door handle and have it installed. Now you simply just have to press down with your hand, fist, or fingers to open the door. (photo)
Reduce fall risk in the kitchen
As we become less flexible, reaching things in our cupboards can get difficult, whether up high or down low. Two beneficial tools that can help with this are a reacher/grabber and a step stool.
Reacher/grabbers are sold at most pharmacies or medical equipment stores and come in handy for taking small objects off of high shelves or picking up small objects off the floor. They are not recommended for picking up heavy objects. (photo)
Step stools are often not recommended for older adults, but sometimes they are essential to utilize the spaces around your home. If a step stool is needed, it is essential that the stool has four solid legs, a handrail to hold onto for stability, a non-skid surface on the feet of the stool, and a non-skid surface where you place your feet. Also, ensure the step stool is not too heavy and can be stored easily within reach.
Get a stairlift to help get you upstairs.
Stairlifts are an excellent option for those who live in a home with lots of stairs that need to be navigated daily. However, these are expensive and invasive home modifications that should only be done if necessary. Stair lifts must be installed safely by a licensed contractor. (photo)
Add necessary handrails to stairs and hallways.
Your home should have handrails along the stairs, hallways, and other open areas where support is needed – inside and outside the home. Handrails can be as simple as one bar attached along a wall or much more ornate. Whatever the style, it is essential to have handrails installed on both sides of a stairway, with a third one in the middle if it is extensive. (photo)
Better illumination to help you navigate dark areas of the home
In the evening, there may not be proper illumination in the home walkways we need to navigate. At night, when we get up to use the bathroom or take medications, there may not be any light at all. Luckily, a simple fix is purchasing some nightlights or brighter bulbs. It’s essential to have walkways illuminated no matter how well you know the house because you never know when something may have fallen in your path.
If you can’t sleep with the lights on, that’s not a problem. Many nightlights are motion sensitive, meaning they will only turn on when they sense you. We recommend that you have nightlights along the path to your bathroom, in the bathroom, in your bedroom, and in any other areas you may go at night, like the kitchen for a drink of water. (photo)
Secure the rugs with double-sided tape or velcro
Area rugs are not only decorative but also necessary for many parts of the home, like in front of the kitchen sink or the bathtub. Unfortunately, repeated wear of these rugs can often cause the edges to lift and curl. This is a significant tripping hazard. The solution is simple: double-sided tape, rug backing, or velcro tape. All these options adhere the back of the rug to the bottom of the floor, ensuring that it will not slide, lift, or curl. The only issue here is that the tape may lose its stickiness with age. So be sure to check every once in a while that your rug is still safely adhered to. (photo)
Fall Risk Assessment for Older Adults
Now, let’s shift gears into looking at your home specifically. Feel free to print out these questions to help you go around your home later and determine what needs to be addressed.
Let’s start with the floors. As you move through the home, pay careful attention to these factors:
- Do you have to walk between furniture pieces to get where you’re going?
- Do you have loose throw rugs that could slip or lift on the edges?
- Is there clutter on the floor?
- Do you have to walk over or around extension cords and other wires?
Furniture should never turn your home into an obstacle course. The house must have a clear path to help you move around as quickly as possible. If there isn’t, consider asking a friend, family member, or someone from your community to come and help you move around your furniture.
Throw rugs can become very dangerous when they slip or shift. Simply applying double-sided tape, velcro tape or a non-slip backing to the rug can make a world of difference.
Clutter on the floor doesn’t have to be just books, shoes, magazines, etc. That’s the obvious stuff. It can also be the corner of an oversized bedspread, blankets draping onto the floor from the couch, or chair covers extending too far onto the floor. Clutter makes for a significant tripping hazard and needs to be corrected. Consider asking someone for help tidying up the mess in the area and ensuring there are no blankets or couch covers draping across the floor.
Cords and wires are everywhere in the modern home. They’re unavoidable. Luckily, there are tons of cord storage solutions on the market today. You can coil or tape cords together and tuck them away behind something or even attach them to the wall. You can also purchase housing for cords that hide them from sight after they’ve been organized.
Steps and stairs
Now, let’s look at stairs and steps. Even if you live in a single-level home, there are steps inside, outside, or near your home. Pay close attention to these factors for every set of stairs you frequently encounter:
- Is there clutter on the stairs?
- Are there broken/loose/uneven steps?
- Is there proper lighting around the stairs?
- If there is carpet, has it begun to come loose?
- Are the handrails sturdy?
There should never be clutter on a staircase, no matter how small. Are there papers, shoes, books, or other objects on the stairs? They should be picked up and put in their place. One wrong step on a staircase can be disastrous.
Broken, loose, or uneven steps can also cause much damage. If these steps are in and around your home, having a licensed contractor come in and take a look will save you a lot of risks. If these steps are in your community, consider contacting the company that houses the stairs or the city. This is a dangerous matter that will be taken seriously.
Lighting is essential in a stairway. If you don’t already have them, consider putting in a light at the top and bottom of the stairs. Make sure you have light switches on both ends of the stairs always to have the lights on when and where you need them. If there are lights in your stairway, but they are burnt out, don’t try to change them on your own. Using any step stools or ladders on the stairs can be very dangerous. Instead, have a family member or maintenance person come in and change those bulbs for you.
Has the carpet become loose, or is it torn in any areas? If so, have a maintenance person in to ensure it is firmly attached, or apply some rug backing as a temporary fix. If your carpet repeatedly comes loose, consider removing the carpet altogether and attaching non-slip treads to the steps instead.
Handrails are an essential part of any steps or staircase. You must always have somewhere stable to hold onto when you need it. If the handrails in and around your home are loose, you need to have someone in to repair them or put in new ones. Handrails are essential for steadying yourself if you ever did begin to fall on the steps, and so they must be able to support you.
In the kitchen
For many, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Let’s keep it that way by taking care of any possible dangers.
- Are frequently used items kept on high shelves?
- Do you use a step stool in the kitchen?
If you answered yes to these, let’s discuss how to make them safer.
Getting items off high shelves can be quite dangerous because it can cause us to pull or strain a muscle. It’s best to keep frequently used items at waist level. Have a friend or family member help you re-arrange your kitchen to serve you best.
You might also need a step stool in the kitchen. If you do, ensure that it’s proper. Every step stool that you use to support yourself should have a bar to hold onto, four legs, and non-skid bottoms on the legs. It should also be easy to store and keep on hand, so you don’t use other items like chairs as step stools.
In the bathroom
The bathroom tends to be the home area where falls are most likely to happen. The moisture and slick surfaces are a terrible combination. Let’s explore how we can make it safer.
- Do you find your tub or shower floor to be very slippery?
- Do you have grab bars in your bathroom?
Slippery floors are hazardous, but there are easy fixes. A non-slip rubber mat or a bathmat with a secure rug backing can help a lot. Within the shower or tub, non-slip strips will make a huge difference. These can all be found easily at home stores or hardware stores.
Grab bars are an essential piece of keeping the bathroom safe. Grabbing bars to assist with getting in and out of the shower and on and off the toilet will immediately make the bathroom a much safer place. Always ensure that a skilled contractor installs grab bars as sturdy as possible.
In the bedroom
The last part of the home we will look at is the bedroom. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, where you never feel unsafe. Let’s do all we can to make that happen. Consider the following:
- Can you turn on the light quickly from the bed?
- Is there a safe path from the bedroom to the bathroom?
- Are all frequently needed items within easy reach of the bed?
Light is one of the most critical factors for keeping a bedroom safe. You often need to turn your light on at night to see better. It’s essential that you can comfortably reach the light from your bed. If you can’t, consider rearranging some furniture to keep a lamp close to you.
A safe path from the bed to the bathroom is also critical, especially if we need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night when we are already disoriented. Make sure the area is free of all clutter, and also consider installing night lights along the path. If you can’t sleep with the lights on, that’s okay. There are night lights available that are motion-activated.
Everything you frequently need, like a remote or medications, should be within reach of the bed. Keeping a well-organized bedside table is a great way to ensure this happens.
Remember, if you are ever unsure, it’s best to have a professional in to assess your home for safety and falls risk.
5 Ways You Can Prevent Falls Now
The following are things that you can do right now to help prevent falls.
- Begin an exercise routine
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to stay mobile. A regular physical activity program can address lower body weakness, flexibility, and balance issues. If you cannot exercise much, start where you are and slowly increase it in small increments. Even if it starts as a two-minute walk three times a day, you can increase that to five minutes, then ten. Keep in mind that the recommended level of physical activity is 30 minutes a day, and that can be broken up any way you like.
- Have your medications reviewed
Take a complete list of all medications, supplements, and herbs that you take to your physician and pharmacist. Have both renew your prescriptions to ensure no drug interactions and ensure you are aware of any side effects. Make sure you do this every time you change your medication routine, even if it’s something simple like a supplement or vitamin.
- Have your vision checked every year
Keeping on top of your eye health is also extremely important. You may be much more prone to accidents if you can’t see correctly.
- Make your home safer.
Many of the modifications we’ve discussed today can be used to make your home safer. Sometimes inviting a friend over to see if they can recognize any hazards that you may have gotten used to is also very helpful.
- Talk with your physician about your falling concerns
Lastly, if you do have concerns about falling, don’t let those concerns turn into an overwhelming fear. Talk with your physician, and they will be able to offer further resources and tips.
Fall Risk Prevention Assessment From Custodia
- You can use the detailed Custodia Falls Risk Assessment to get a fall risk score and many ideas for modifying your home. There are many excellent solutions.
If you have any questions in the future, you can send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.