Every year, many older Americans are injured in and around their homes. Approximately 1.4 million people aged 65 and older are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for injuries associated with consumer products, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Within this age cluster, the rate of injury is the highest for those who are 75 years of age and older. Falls in and around the home are a top cause of injuries to older adults. Older adults also are at greater risk than others of dying in a house fire. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that over 33,000 people died from falls in 2015 and most of them were over the age of 65. In fact, one in three older adults falls every year. That is why falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults over the age of 65. The danger of accidental death at home is terrifying, but the reality is, things are much different after a fall even when the person survives.
In many cases, the first fall can completely disrupt a senior’s quality of life. It can be the beginning of a downward spiral where your loved one eventually loses the independence he or she has always known. That’s why fall prevention is so important. Most of these injuries result from hazards that are easy to overlook, but also easy to remedy. By identifying these hazards, taking simple steps to correct them, and senior proofing your home you can prevent injuries to yourself, visitors of your home, or your loved ones.
Begin taking preventative measures with the fundamentals. These are the first crucial steps you should take for senior proofing your home or your loved one’s home:
Floor Traction is Key
Many seniors shuffle their feet instead of picking them up when they walk, which puts them at a much higher risk of falling. Secure all carpets to the floor and consider covering hardwood with anchored carpet. This presents a softer surface and gives your loved one more traction around the house. Get rid of any high-pile carpets that can cause trips. As a rule of thumb, every rug or carpet should require some effort to move or adjust. Remove throw rugs that can slip from under your parent’s feet. If Mom or Dad wants a rug for a room, consider buying a non-slip rug pad. Rug anchors can also help prevent slips and trips.
Ensuring Home is Easy to Navigate
The home must be easy to navigate so open the space and arrange furniture so that there is plenty of space to move around. That may mean getting rid of end tables, or furniture that’s only in the room for décor. Ensure commonly used items are accessible. Think of food in pantries with high shelves, clothing in closets, power outlets and light switches behind small furniture, pots, pans and dishes in hanging cabinets, as well as car keys if they’re still driving. You don’t want Mom or Dad having to reach for these things, as this can result in falls. Spend some time with your parent, figure out the things she needs to access the most and make them accessible. Next, ensure adequate lighting. Every single room in the house needs decent lighting, especially where there are stairs. Purchase night-lights and put them in the bathroom, kitchen and hallways in case Mom or Dad gets up in the middle of the night.
Secure the Stairs
Install railings and make sure every set of stairs in your/their home has at least two railings for your loved one to grip while going up or down the stairs. Then, apply non-slip adhesive strips to the stairs. We can’t spend enough time talking about the stairs because staircase and stairway accidents are the second-leading cause of accidental injury, second only to motor vehicle accidents. The National Safety Council published that every year there are 12,000 accidental deaths involving stairways. Of the one in three seniors who fall annually, the National Institute on Aging says, 80 percent of those falls are in the bathroom. To prevent bathroom falls, install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, and toilets.
Go the Extra Mile
Consider technology such as a video chat app, a help button, or a medical alert system. All preventative measures can be in place, but accidents still occur. In case a fall does happen, a loved one must be able to reach someone immediately so stay connected.
These recommendations are a good starting point to significantly mitigate injury to a loved one and begin senior proofing your home.