Caregiver tips for making a home safe for seniors

Caregiver tips for making a home safe for seniors

The majority of falls occur in or around the home. The three areas of the home that cause the most problems are:

  • Steps/stairs
  • The bathroom
  • The bedroom

Some of the most common hazards for falls are tripping over objects on the floor, poor lighting, slippery surfaces (such as a tile floor or bathtub), lack of safety grab bars, and unsteady furniture. As a caregiver, it’s important to take time to assess what needs to be done to make a safe home for seniors in your care.

Fall prevention inside the home

Add Support Features such as:

  • Lighting: Ensure lighting is adequate and that there is also lighting at night and in stairways.
  • Handrails: There should be two handrails along stairs.
  • Safety grab bars: Install grab bars in the bathroom or other rooms as needed.
  • Non-slip mats: Use them in the bathtub or shower.

Remove Hazards and other Risk Factors:

  • Ensure clear pathways. Indoor pathways should be free of obstacles, tripping hazards, and loose cords such as extension cords, phone cords etc.
  • Remove scatter mats.
  • Ensure spills are wiped up immediately.
  • Adjust grade changes at entrances or between flooring changes.
  • If carpet is loose or wrinkled, or floors are damaged or uneven, have them repaired.
  • Rearrange furniture to allow for clear pathways.
  • Remove hazards such as leaves and ice from outside pathways.
  • Repair damaged steps or cracks in outdoor sidewalks.

Add Adaptive Equipment such as:

  • Equipment for bathing - a shower chair or bathtub transfer bench
  • Devices to raise the height of the toilet, such as a raised toilet seat
  • Reacher to minimize bending or reaching
  • Furniture risers
  • Bed rails
  • Commodes

Although it is important to adapt the environment for the older adult’s safety at home, the care recipient can also make changes and should be aware of how they complete their daily activities, as even small changes can help improve safety at home.

Some reminders that you as a caregiver can share with your care recipient:

  • Do not rush, this includes walking, going to the bathroom, answering the door or phone.
  • Pick up your feet when walking.
  • Remove reading glasses before walking or using the stairs.
  • Avoid climbing on chairs or unsteady stools or stepladders.
  • Ensure commonly used items are within reach.
  • Use installed hand rails and safety grab bars.
  • Turn on the lights before entering a room and use night lights.
  • Do not leave items on the floor.
  • Use gait aids or safety equipment as recommended by your occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
  • Wear supportive footwear.

Caregiver tips - What can I do?

Conduct a walk-through of your care recipient’s home inside and outside to identify any possible risk factors and hazards that may lead to a fall. With a few changes, the risk of seniors falling can be decreased. A reassessment of the home should be ongoing and completed after any changes such as an illness, new pain, a move, new furniture, etc.

The following fall prevention tips are examples of changes that can be made in the different areas of the home.

Home Entrance Safety

Support Features:

  • There should be solid handrails on both sides of the stair way.
  • Ensure good lighting by the stairs.

Remove Hazards:

  • Ensure there are no loose, damaged or broken steps.
  • Ensure entryway steps and pathways are free of obstacles, free of ice and snow in the winter months, and free of leaves in the fall.
  • Repair uneven sidewalks.

Add Adaptive Equipment if Necessary:

  • If the older adult is unable to safely use stairs then adaptations may be required such as a ramp or a porch lift.

Keeping Seniors Safe Outside the Home

Support Features

  • Look at access to decks and porch areas. Is there a step to the patio, or a sliding door threshold to step over? Consider installing a hand rail or safety grab bar to hold onto.

Remove hazards

  • Be cautious of patio furniture as it can be low and difficult for seniors to transfer into or out of.
  • Check to see if there are safe paved paths to access gardens or backyards. Walking on grass can be difficult for older adults with mobility concerns.
  • Secure and repair uneven walkways or patio stones.

Stair Safety Inside the Home

Support Features

  • Handrails on both sides of the stairs
  • Good lighting in stairways and hallways

Remove Hazards

  • Ensure no loose, damaged or broken steps
  • Ensure no clutter on the stairs or obstacles

Adaptive Equipment

  • If stairs are too difficult for seniors to safely use consider installing a stair glide or having the care recipient stay on the main level.

Home Bathroom Safety

Support Features

  • Install safety grab bars as needed. Seniors should not use towel racks, soap dishes or toilet paper holders for support.
  • Ensure additional lighting.
  • Install a hand held shower head.
  • Lever handles on faucets are recommended.

Remove Hazards

  • Remove scatter mats.
  • Use a non-slip surface or rubber mat with suction cups in the bathtub to minimize slippery surfaces.
  • Use a caddy in the shower and on the counter to hold commonly used items - to minimize reaching.
  • Make sure toilet paper holders are within reach.
  • Ensure wet floors or spills are promptly cleaned up.

Add Adaptive Equipment

  • Use assistive devices to raise the height of the toilet. For example, raised toilet seat, toilet safety frames, or commodes over the toilet.
  • Use a bath seat or tub transfer bench for the bathtub/shower.

See more tips on how to make safe and stylish washrooms.

Home Bedroom Safety

Support Features

  • Ensure adequate lighting at night for seniors getting up to access the bathroom.

Remove Hazards

  • Ensure access and clear pathways to and from the bedroom and bathroom.
  • If using a mobility aid, ensure the individual can access the bed with the device.
  • Ensure items needed in closets and dressers are within reach.

Adaptive Equipment

  • If the senior has difficulty getting in and out of bed, consider an assistive device such a bed rail or floor to ceiling pole.
  • If the senior has difficulty accessing the bathroom at night or frequent trips are required, consider a commode or urinal at bed side.

Living Room Safety

Support Devices

  • Ensure adequate lighting.

Remove hazards

  • Ensure clear pathway, for example no loose wires or cords in walkways and pathways.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Rearrange furniture so there are clear paths for walking.
  • Remove scatter mats.
  • Remove area rugs or if using, ensure they are non-slip and the corners are secured to minimize elderly tripping hazards.

Adaptive Equipment

  • Use furniture risers to raise the height of low furniture.
  • Use firm foam cushions to raise the height of furniture.
  • Install a floor to ceiling pole or other assistive devices, for seniors to hold on to when rising from furniture.
  • Use a reacher.

Kitchen Safety

Support Devices

  • Ensure adequate lighting.
  • Automatic shutoffs on small appliances are recommended.
  • Use lever handles on faucets.

Remove hazards

  • Ensure clear pathways.
  • Store pots and pans and kitchen supplies in easy to reach locations to minimize reaching and lifting heavy items.
  • Store heavy items in lower cupboards to minimize bending.
  • Store commonly used items towards the front of the fridge.
  • Ensure spills are cleaned up promptly.
  • Minimize carrying items and distance.

Adaptive Equipment

  • Use a reacher.
  • If the senior has difficulty reaching stove knobs, have them use a stove turner.

For more ideas and tips on improving senior safety at home see our article “10 Tips to Decorate Your Home for Safety and Style.”




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