Many seniors forgo assisted living communities for the perceived freedom and independence of living at home. If you’re able to live on your own safely, it’s absolutely your right to do this. It’s important to make sure you’re on the lookout for hazards that can cause the most common safety risks in your home.
Falls are sadly one of the most common dangers seniors face in their own homes. In 2011 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that almost 23,000 seniors died from falls, while 2.4 million were sent to the emergency room. This makes preventing slips and falls essential in a senior home.
For this article, we’ll focus on rooms other than the kitchen, since we learned how to make that room safe in “Giving Your Home a Kitchen Safety and Hygiene Check.” We’ll still give you a checklist so you can easily follow along at home!
General Fall Prevention Tips
In our kitchen safety article, we discussed ways to prevent slips and falls in that room, and much of that logic applies elsewhere in the house, too. For example, if you have any rugs on hardwood, tile, or no-carpeted floors, it’s probably wise to secure the rugs with non-slip tape or mats. Cleaning the floor regularly is also important to preventing slick or wet spots that can cause a slip.
Unsecured clutter on the floor, especially in high traffic areas, can quickly become a slip hazard if left unattended to.
Eliminating clutter and keeping your home clean is also important for preventing slips. We’ve previously discussed clutter as a slip-threat in “Hoarding: When ‘Stuff’ Controls Your Life” and “Caregiving for a Loved One with Dementia.” To sum up both, unsecured clutter on the floor, especially in high traffic areas, can quickly become a slip hazard if left unattended to.
Stairs represent added dangers for falling instead of just falling to the floor, since steps continue to drop, increasing the chances of continued falls.
When you’re checking the stairs, make sure the railings are sturdy and secure, giving you something to grip in case you do slip. A handrail can also help prevent a slip entirely by helping you balance.
You should also check each step, since it only takes one misstep to cause a fall. Each step should be stable and secured. Do any shift when you step on them? This could be enough to cause a slip. Each step should also be even and sturdy. This is important since a broken step can shift, while an uneven one can easily cause an uncertain stepper to fall.
Hardwood or Carpeted?
Finally, check to see if the steps are hardwood or carpeted. If they’re hardwood, it may be worth considering carpeting the stairs or adding non-slip matts or tape. Carpet has an advantage over hardwood because it can have more grip than hardwood. They can also add padding that hardwood doesn’t have should a fall occur.
Wet, Slick Floors
Bathrooms are another room that present many common slip and fall hazards. Other than the kitchen, the bathroom is the room in the house we’re most likely to come into contact with water. Check for any water on the floor, as well as any possible causes of water. Examine your pipes to look for any potential leaks that can cause puddles, as well as water damage unrelated to falling! Similar to the kitchen, you should also make sure each mat in the bathroom is secured and slip-proofed.
The Dangers of the Tub
If there’s one section of the bathroom that needs to be checked for fall hazards, though, it’s the tub. Whether you’re taking a bath or standing for a shower, there’s an opportunity for a fall in the bathtub. With a slick, wet floor, one misstep can easily result in a fall.
Adding Safety to Your Shower
There are a few things you can add to a tub to help prevent slip and falls. First, a rubber non-slip mat can be effective at giving surer footing while showering. A seat in the shower can help tired legs rest or give you a sturdier place to wash. Grab bars are also wise, since they can be used to steady yourself or help yourself get up if you’re seated. Outside of the tub, it may also be worth adding grab bars to the toilet to help seniors raise from the seated position and stay steady while seated.
Home Fall Safety Checklist
- Clean the floors of clutter
- Clean the steps of clutter
- Clean floors of wet or slick spots
- Secure all rugs or replace with non-slip
- Check that handrails on stairs are secure and steady
- Ensure that steps aren’t broke and are level with each other
- Check pipes in bathroom for any leaks
- Replace bath mats with non-slip alternatives
- Add a non-slip rubber mat to the tub
- Add carpeting or non-stick flooring to hardwood steps
- Add a non-slip shower seat to shower
- Add grab bars to shower
- Add grab bars to toilet
Medicareful Living — Giving Your Home a Kitchen Safety and Hygiene Check