Fall Prevention: 15 Effective Tips for Safer Home Environments
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This article provides 15 ways to decrease the risk of falls at home for older adults, as well as advice on how to hire an occupational therapist to assess the home.
- 25% of adults aged 65 and older fall every year, often within the home.
- Hire an occupational therapist to assess the home and make modifications or provide durable medical equipment to make each room safer.
- Install bright lighting, remove throw rugs, move electrical cords, and rearrange the kitchen to reduce the risk of falls.
More than 25% of adults aged 65 and older fall every year, often within the home. About 20% of the time, falls have serious consequences, including head injuries or broken bones.
If your parent falls, it may be hard for them to continue living independently. Common reasons include:
- Complications. Some older adults have serious enough injuries that they need to move to an assisted living facility for care.
- Future events. When someone falls once, they’re twice as likely to fall again, which may cause serious injury next time.
- Fear. Someone who’s afraid of falling again may limit their physical activity to avoid potential accidents, which may backfire; less movement may promote weakness or balance issues, making someone more likely to fall again.
Protecting your parent’s health and safety
To reduce your parent’s risk of falling, ensure that their home is a safe space. You may evaluate the home on your own, but for a more thorough assessment, hire an occupational therapist (OT) who works with older adults. They can identify problem areas, then recommend modifications or durable medical equipment to make each room safer. They may also address dementia-related concerns.
“It’s super important to have somebody come in, take a look at the house, give recommendations for the present and the future,” says aging life care manager and licensed occupational therapist Melissa Swiontek, OTL, ALCM, founder of the Oregon-based Passionate Healthcare Advocacy & Wellness. “Those things [may help] prevent the catastrophes that can happen if you don’t prepare.”
If your parent qualifies for home health care and the agency recommends an OT assessment, the service may be free, although the recommendations may not be as comprehensive as if you hired someone privately.
“[For] thorough recommendations and reports outlining specifics, recommending contractors, etc.,” Swiontek says, “this [may] cost $300 to $500, depending on their area.”
Ways to reduce the risk of falls in your parent’s home
Older adults may have trouble navigating crowded, cluttered spaces. They may also have poor vision, making them more likely to slip and fall on the stairs or trip over shoes that were kicked off in the middle of a room. To make it less likely that your parent will fall:
Install bright lighting inside and outside the home, so that they can see where they’re going.
- Ensure that walkways throughout the home are clear of clutter. Stash shoes, magazines and other items elsewhere.
- Remove throw rugs; the loose edges are trip hazards.
- Move electrical cords out of walkways. If necessary, have an electrician install an outlet closer to the plugged-in item.
- Shift end tables or other furniture out of walkways, but don’t make dramatic changes if your parent has dementia; new furniture patterns may be stressful and confusing.
- Be sure that there are light switches at the top and bottom of stairs. Consider swapping out the current light-switch covers for glow-in-the-dark covers.
- Place nightlights in the bathroom and along any routes that your parent may walk in the dark.
- If the stairs don’t have sturdy banisters on both sides going down the entire way, have them installed.
- Add nonslip carpeting or safety grip strips to each step. Consider marking each stair edge with brightly colored tape, for better visibility.
- Rearrange the kitchen so that frequently used items are on shelves within easy reach, to discourage overreaching or climbing on furniture.
- Consider getting a raised toilet seat.
- Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet.
- Buy a shower seat and a slip-resistant rubber mat for the shower, and consider switching to a hand-held shower head.
- If it’s difficult for your parent to step into a tub to shower, consider replacing it with a walk-in shower.
- In some cases, people with an upstairs bedroom may benefit from having a first-floor bedroom and full bathroom created for them.
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