Is aging at home a good thing? That depends! Our homes provide a sense of comfort, familiarity, and security.
But, according to one report from Age Safe America, 85% of older adults have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging in place.
Why does that matter? Because falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions – and 56% of those falls occur in the home.
Let that sink in: More than half of all falls that result in a hospital admission happen in the home.
Luckily, steps can be taken to keep you or your older loved one safe from falls and other dangers in the house. Use this list to assess your home and keep it senior-friendly:
- Look for fall hazards. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults – and most of them occur in the home. One of the most important things you can do to make your home senior-safe is to remove fall hazards. Here are some things to look for:
- Loose throw rugs. Rugs without non-slip backing are a serious fall risk. Also look for frayed, torn, or turned up edges, which can lead to unintentional trips and tumbles.
- Clutter and debris. Make sure walkways and common areas are clear of items such as loose clothing and shoes, magazines, books, trash, electrical cords, and any other clutter.
- Decorative furniture. Sure, that antique end table from Aunt Betty looks pretty . . . but it’s just one more thing to trip over.
- Eliminate fire risks. Did you know that people ages 65 to 74 are almost twice as likely to die in a fire, people between the ages of 75 and 84 are almost four times as likely? Therefore, keeping your home senior-safe also includes removing fire hazards. Here’s how:
- Keep fresh batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (experts recommend changing them twice a year, when the time changes)
- Replace and frayed or damaged electrical cords and limit the number or cords plugged into one outlet or power strip
- Don’t leave unattended candles burning in the home (better yet – don’t use candles at all!)
- If you use a space heater, keep it at least three feet away from furniture, drapes, bedding, and other flammable items
- Safeguard the bathroom. According to the National Institute on Aging, almost 80 percent of falls by people 65 or older occur in the bathroom. Yikes! To ensure your (or your loved one’s) safety, do this:
- Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet
- Consider a walk-in bathtub and a handheld shower
- Place rubber mats in the shower to prevent slipping
- Use a bathing chair in the shower or bathtub
- Set the thermostat to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidental burns
- Replace the toilet seat with a raised toilet seat with handlebars to make it easier to sit and stand
- Install a nightlight in the bathroom to make overnight trips to the loo a bit safer
- Consider the kitchen. Many adults spend a large amount of time in the kitchen. Therefore, it makes sense to make this room as safe as possible.
- Move frequently used items to lower levels
- If reaching for items is necessary, use a stepstool rather than standing on a chair
- Install non-slip mats in front of the sink, stove, and any other areas where you frequently stop and stand
- Replace standard water faucet handles with single-lever models
- Update lighting. The average 60-year-old needs at least three times more light than the average 20-year-old. With that in mind, look around the house: Is the lighting adequate? If not, these tips can help:
- Replace any burnt-out light bulbs
- Install new light fixtures or lamps in too-dim rooms
- Install motion-detecting lights in commonly used areas (such as the bedroom and bathroom)
- Put light switches where they’re easily accessible, for both safety and ease of use
- Make stairs safe. Ideally, a senior’s home would be one level – but that’s often not the case. To avoid unnecessary trips and falls, try the following:
- Tighten and secure all stair railings. If they wiggle back and forth, they’re not going to stop a fall!
- Use a contrasting paint color or colored tape to differentiate stair tops from risers. Many seniors have vision issues and are unable to separate one step from the next.
- Keep the stairs (both indoors and out) clear of debris and clutter
- Consider a stairlift if physical limitations make it difficult to climb up and down
Although this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s a great place to start! If you’re unsure of whether there are risks in your home, consider calling in a care manager – they will assess the house for safety and point out any red flags!