According to the National Council on Aging, one in three adults over the age of 65 will fall each year. As a caregiver, you know how dangerous these accidents can be. From broken bones to head injuries, older adults who experience a fall face a long list of possible complications that can seriously limit their mobility and independence.
Luckily, there are plenty of things caregivers and older adults themselves can do to limit the risk of a fall. In addition to lifestyle changes like increased exercise and regular vision checkups, making modifications to an older adult’s home can keep them safe and reduce the chance that they will experience a fall.
Remove safety hazards
One of the easiest things you can do to immediately reduce the risk of your older loved one falling is to clear walkways and pick up household clutter. Start by moving things like shoes, pet toys and small furniture out of the way. Make sure power cords are safely placed near walls and outlets, rather than strung across the living space, and consider securing them to the floor boards with brackets like these. If your older loved one has slick floors or bulky rugs, consider investing in non-slip rugs, rug pads or removing them from your loved one’s home.
Night vision tends to worsen as we age, and older adults are more likely to fall if their vision is impaired. If your older loved one often gets up at night, help them install small night lights in hallways and bedrooms so they can see where they’re going before they reach the light switch. Additionally, be sure they have plenty of light near the entrances to their homes and along outdoor walkways.
Install grab bars and handrails
If your older loved one often loses their balance, installing handrails in hallways and grab bars in the bathroom can be a smart decision. These additions are a little more costly than the suggestions above, but can greatly reduce the risk of falling in the areas of the home that are most difficult to navigate. And they don’t have to look institutional to be effective. Hardware stores often carry handrails in a number of wood-colored finishes that will look sleek and stylish in the home. Non-slip bath mats in the shower can also help older adults keep their footing as they bathe.
Move hard to reach items
Many people fall while trying to get items down from tall shelves or other hard to reach places. Keep things like glasses, plates and other commonly used cooking utensils on lower shelves or in a location where they can be accessed without strain.
Invest in an emergency alert tool
Even when home modifications are made, older adults are still at risk of experiencing a fall. Invest in an emergency medical alert tool like Life Alert or Lifeline, as this can connect older loved ones to emergency services should they fall when they’re home alone.
Making positive changes to your older loved one’s home doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Isn’t it worth the time and effort now to avoid falls and accidents in the future?
NIH Senior Health: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/homesafety/01.html