Nearly once every 10 seconds, an older person is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. Falls are the leading cause of injury in seniors, but that doesn’t mean you should accept this as “just a part of getting older.” Falls don’t have to happen. There’s no way to prevent 100 percent of falls, but by taking the time to make some changes to the living area, it’s possible to reduce the chance of a fall for an older person significantly. Here’s a look at some of the best ways to make a home safer for seniors.
- Eliminate trip and slip dangersTripping and slipping are two of the most common injuries to seniors. The falls typically take place in the kitchen and the bathroom. If you’re trying to make a home safe for a senior, start with these rooms.
In the kitchenMake sure any seams from carpet to tile aren’t loose and apply non-slip wax to floors. If you’ll be cooking on your own, store pots and pans at chest height, so you’re not reaching up or bending over. Some people place bath mats in front of the kitchen sink and refrigerator to make sure any spilled liquids don’t pose a danger. Even something as small as socks with rubber soles can make the kitchen a lot safer.
In the bathroom Install a non-slip mat or a waterproof seat in the shower and a raised seat with grab bars on the toilet. Easy to install toilet seats are available for under $50 that includes both of these features. While you’re working on the bathroom, it might be a good idea to install a scald detection device that turns off the water if it’s too hot or adjust the water heater to a lower temperature. While not fall-related, some diseases can affect a person’s sensitivity to temperature, and a senior can get burned without realizing it. A popular, yet more expensive way to make your bathroom safer is adding a walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs Let you safely enter and exit your bathtub through a door. They typically range in price from around $3,000 to $5,000 with installation costing around $700 to $1,500.
For the rest of the houseIt’s a good idea to remove all rugs, as they’re a common trip hazard. Also, more electronics in homes than ever before means more electrical cords as trip hazards. Anywhere cell phone chargers, televisions, lamps, radios, and other corded devices are plugged into a wall jack presents a fall threat. Tape down these cords along the wall to keep them out of the way. If you need to navigate a multi-level house, consider installing a stair lift to make going up and down your staircase safer. Stair lifts range in price from around $2,000 to $4,500 with installation costing around $2,000 for a straight staircase. Experts also recommend placing a priority on lights, including making sure hallways and closets have plenty of bright lighting and putting extra lamps in dark corners. Lamps should preferably turn on and off with a touch. Outdoor motion lights along pathways are also a helpful addition.
Household Improvement Common Price Range Lowering Kitchen Cabinets $1,900-$2,900 (using a contractor) Non-slip Mats $6-$25 Shower Seat $20-$50 Grab Bars $10-$30 Anit-Scald Protection Valve $25-$100+ (depending on plumbing setup)
Make sure help can arrive quicklyWhether help means someone else who lives in the house or a medical professional, make sure nothing is impeding that person from getting to whoever is in need of help. A lockbox can be used on the front door for speedy entry into the home. Inside, preparing for when assistance is required can be as simple as leaving bathroom doors unlocked so someone can get in to help. Consider purchasing a medical alert system. There are medical alert models that automatically summon help if a fall is detected.
- Assess furniture
Make your medical info and emergency contacts availableIt is sometimes difficult to remember what medications you take and why, so make sure your medical information is visible in your home. One common method of doing this is to print the information out and stick it to the refrigerator door. Also, make sure a list of emergency contact numbers is readily available so you won’t have to navigate a notebook where you may have scrawled a phone number. Medical identification bracelets are a common way to display allergies, blood type and other special instructions a medical professional might need to know when responding to a call.
Go smartTake advantage of modern “smart home” technology as a way of staying a little safer in your home. Loved ones can monitor you via indoor security cameras which have mobile apps with real-time monitoring from anywhere via smartphone. If you don’t want interior cameras, wearable tech monitors that track movement and things like your blood pressure and step record in real time are popular.
Additionally, activity trackers can be installed on things like cabinets, doors, windows and beds to track movement around your house. If the sensors haven’t been activated in a couple of days, it can send an alert to a loved one. Also, newer home assistant devices like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home have a “drop-in” feature that allows another user to listen in live.
Smart Technology Common Price Range 360-degree HD Smart Home Camera $70-$200 each Smartwatch* $100-$200 depending on model Activity Sensors $25-$40 each Amazon Echo $100
*Sometimes cheaper if you find deals or last year’s model
Consistently check for dangersOne of the best ways to keep a home safe for seniors is to stay in touch very frequently. The National Council on Aging recommends that adult children look over their parent’s living area at least once a month, and provides a checklist of the most common dangers and how to fix them.
Go over the checklist. Unexpected tripping hazards like a piece of carpet pulling up often go without being fixed. The lack of repair may be an issue of the resident not noticing or not wanting to bother anyone, so many problems are resolved by having someone else looking over the home if you can’t be there in person.
Every room should have clear paths you can walk through without having to make tricky turns. Creating a safe home may mean rearranging some furniture. At this point, aesthetics should take a back seat. Place chairs and couches against walls to create wide open pathways. Consider getting rid of furniture that doesn’t serve a direct purpose if it will help avoid tripping. You may find that you need to upgrade your bed to make falling asleep, staying asleep and getting in and out of bed easier. Adjustable beds are great alternatives to hospital beds as they provide a modern aesthetic while still having the features you find with a hospital bed. Adjustable beds can raise and lower the upper half and lower half of your body for customized sleeping positions. Some even come with massage features, wireless controls and the ability to adjust the firmness of your mattress. Adjustable beds range in price from around $500 to over $3,000.
Making a senior’s home a safer place
Over 29,000,000 seniors fall each year, resulting in more than 7,000,000 injuries. It is possible to make aging at home safer. If you’re making changes to a senior’s home to add safety and security measures, understanding these changes will help tremendously. While many seniors may fight against “old person” additions like handrails, grab bars, stair lifts and walk-in tubs, these are great additions that will make their home a much safer place.