Falls are the number one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in Americans 65 and older. Broken bones, especially hip fractures, and traumatic brain injuries are among the most severe fall-related injuries and the most likely to result in death.

For seniors, falls are often more than a significant cause of acute injury; they can also lead to chronic conditions and a decline in overall health and independence. Implementing measures to prevent falls at home can reduce the risk of fall incidents, improve quality of life, and promote healthy aging.

This article will walk you through the steps to ensure your aging loved ones are as safe as possible in their home.

Identify Potential Fall Hazards

Regular home environment assessments help promptly identify and address fall hazards, promoting safety, independence, and overall well-being.

Evaluate the following areas for fall hazards:

  • Stairs and steps – Steps can be difficult to see or navigate, especially in poor lighting or for individuals with visual impairments or physical limitations. Loose or uneven steps, poorly maintained handrails, or cluttered stairways can also increase the risk of falls.
  • Slippery floors – Spilled liquids, such as water or cooking oils, can create slick surfaces that increase the risk of falls. Smooth, polished floors can also be slippery, particularly when wet or when wearing footwear with poor traction. Additionally, factors such as inadequate lighting, loose rugs or mats, or cluttered walkways can further increase the risk of falls on slippery floors in the home.
  • Poor lighting – Dimly lit areas, shadows, or glare can obscure objects or make it challenging to navigate through the home safely, particularly for individuals with visual impairments. Poor lighting can also make it challenging to see steps or changes in elevation, increasing the risk of tripping or misjudging distances.
  • Loose carpets and rugs – When carpets or rugs are not appropriately secured to the floor, they can shift or bunch up, creating an uneven surface that is challenging to navigate, especially for those with mobility or balance issues.
  • Bathroom hazards – Most falls happen in the bathroom because water from the shower, bath, or sink can create slick surfaces. Hard, smooth surfaces such as tile or porcelain can also be slippery, particularly when wet. In addition, getting in and out of the bathtub or shower can be difficult for individuals with mobility or balance issues. Bathrooms often have hard surfaces that can worsen the impact of a fall and increase the risk of injury.

Modify Your Home To Prevent Falls

By identifying and addressing fall hazards in the home, such as loose rugs, cluttered pathways, exposed cords, or slippery floors, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of falls and improve their quality of life.

  • Install grab bars and handrails where individuals need additional support to maintain their balance, such as near the toilet, bathtub, shower, and next to the bed, stairways, entryways, and hallways.
    • Install grab bars vertically or horizontally on walls, within reach of the user, and secured to wall studs or other sturdy surfaces.
    • Place handrails on both sides of stairways. They should be at a comfortable height for the user to hold and should be securely anchored to the wall.
  • Non-slip surfaces – Slippery floors in the bathroom are not the only floors that present a fall risk.
    • In bathrooms, non-slip mats or decals can be placed on the shower or bathtub floor to prevent slips on wet surfaces. Non-slip mats can also be used on the bathroom floor to provide traction when getting in and out of the shower or toilet.
    • In kitchens, non-slip rugs or mats can be placed where spills or wetness are common, such as in front of the sink or stove.
    • Non-slip coatings or treatments can also be applied to outdoor walkways or entryways, particularly in areas that may become slippery due to rain, ice, or snow. By installing non-slip surfaces in these areas, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of falls and promote overall safety in the home.
  • Improve lighting in all areas of the home where visibility is poor or where individuals may have difficulty navigating safely. Install brighter light bulbs, additional lighting fixtures, and motion-sensor lights, or add night lights in critical areas like hallways, stairways, entryways, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
    • Provide adequate lighting around the shower, bathtub, and toilet areas
    • Light stairways with light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs
    • Lighting should illuminate steps, walkways, and any potential hazards.
  • Place furniture carefully – Careful placement can reduce the risk of falls by creating clear, unobstructed pathways for individuals to move safely. Arrange furniture to allow easy navigation through the house without blocking doorways or walkways.
    • Place heavy or bulky furniture in stable locations where elderly family members won’t bump into or trip over it.
    • Remove glass tables or cabinets
    • Replace shower doors with tempered glass
    • Don’t place furniture too close to steps or changes in elevation
  • Consider assistive devices – Assistive devices, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, can lower the risk of falls in the home by providing additional support and stability to individuals with balance or mobility difficulties.

Encourage Exercise and Physical activity

Regular exercise helps individuals improve:

  • balance
  • strength
  • flexibility
  • bone density
  • cognitive function, reducing the risk of falls related to confusion and/or disorientation

Exercise can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a disease that increases the risk of fractures from a fall.

Walking, water exercises, dancing, yoga, chair exercises, and resistance training are just a few ways seniors can incorporate exercise into their daily routines.

Home Care Services Can Help

Home care services help elderly or disabled people live safely and independently. Services can include:

  • personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • assistance with housekeeping, meal preparation, and medication management, which can lower the risk of falls related to mobility or environmental hazards.

An emergency response system can help by providing immediate assistance in the event of a fall or other medical emergency. These systems typically include a wearable pendant or bracelet with a call button, which can be used to summon help from a trained operator at any time of day or night.

Other Fall Prevention Tips

Key points for home fall prevention include:

  1. Remove tripping hazards like loose rugs, clutter, and electrical cords.
  2. Install handrails and grab bars in critical areas, such as bathrooms and stairways.
  3. Improve lighting in areas of poor visibility.
  4. Install non-slip surfaces in areas prone to wetness, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  5. Use proper footwear with non-slip soles and good support.
  6. Exercise regularly to improve balance and strength.
  7. Review the medication list with a healthcare provider to reduce the risk of falls.
  8. Address vision problems to improve visibility and reduce fall risk.
  9. Make modifications to the home environment, such as rearranging furniture or adding assistive devices.
  10. Consider home care services or emergency response systems to help and support in the event of a fall or medical emergency.

By following these tips and techniques, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of falls, maintain their independence, and promote overall safety and well-being in the home.

See the At Home Harmony blogs on How to Improve Bathroom Safety and Elderly Home Safety Assessment and Checklist for help ensuring your home is as safe as possible. Our providers and support team can help ensure you are healthy at home in your surroundings. Contact At Home Harmony to learn more about our in-home care services today!