Tips for making a home safe for older adults

Tips for making a home safe for older adults

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

As a caregiver, it's important to take the time to assess what needs to be done to make home safer for older adults in your care.
  1. Steps/stairs
  2. The bathroom
  3. The bedroom

Some of the most common hazards for falls are 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 the time to assess what needs to be done to make home safer for older adults in your care.

Fall prevention at home

Add support features such as:

  • Lighting: Ensure that 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 and/or shower.

Remove hazards and other risk factors:

  • Ensure that pathways are clear. Indoor pathways should be free of obstacles, tripping hazards, and loose cords such as extension cords, phone cords, etc.
  • Remove scatter mats.
  • Ensure that spills are wiped up immediately.
  • Adjust grade changes at entrances or between flooring changes.
  • If carpet is loose or wrinkled or the 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.

Consider the use of 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
  • A 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, there are small reminders that you can offer the person to improve their safety.

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

  • Do not rush. This includes while walking, going to the bathroom, and 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 that 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 the Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist.
  • Wear supportive footwear.

Caregiver Tips - what can I do?

Conduct a walk-through of both the inside and outside of your care recipient’s home to identify any possible risk factors and hazards that may lead to a fall. With a few changes, the risk of 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 stairway.
  • Ensure that there is good lighting by the stairs.

Remove hazards:

  • Ensure that there are no loose, damaged, or broken steps.
  • Ensure that the 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.

Adaptive equipment:

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

Outdoor Safety

Support features:

  • Look at access to decks and porch areas. Is there a step to the patio? Is there 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 paved paths to access gardens or backyards. Walking on grass can be difficult for older adults with mobility issues.
  • Secure and repair uneven walkways or patio stones.

Stair Safety (Inside the Home)

Support features:

  • There should be solid handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Ensure that there is good lighting in stairways and hallways.

Remove hazards:

  • Ensure that there are no loose, damaged, or broken steps.
  • Ensure that there is no clutter or obstacles on the stairs.

Adaptive equipment:

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

Bathroom Safety

Support features:

  • Install grab bars as needed. Towel racks, soap dishes or toilet paper holders should not be used for support.
  • Ensure that there is 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 or shower 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 that wet floors or spills are promptly cleaned up.

Adaptive equipment:

  • Use assistive devices to raise the height of the toilet. For example, a raised toilet seat, toilet safety frame, or commode 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 here.

Bedroom Safety

Support features:

  • Ensure that there is adequate lighting at night for older adults who may get up to access the bathroom.

Remove hazards:

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

Adaptive equipment:

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

Living Room Safety

Support features:

  • Ensure that there is adequate lighting.

Remove hazards:

  • Ensure that there is a clear pathway. For example, there are no loose wires or cords in walkways and pathways.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Rearrange furniture so that there are clear paths for walking.
  • Remove scatter mats.
  • Remove area rugs or ensure that they are non-slip and the corners are secured to minimize 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 the person to hold onto when rising from furniture.
  • Use a Reacher.

Kitchen Safety

Support features:

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

Remove hazards:

  • Ensure that there are clear pathways.
  • Store pots, pans, and kitchen supplies in easy-to-reach locations to minimize reaching and lifting heavy items.
  • Store commonly used items towards the front of the fridge.
  • Ensure that spills are cleaned up promptly.
  • Minimize both the need to carry items and the distance the items need to be carried.

Adaptive equipment:

  • Use a Reacher.
  • If the person has difficulty reaching stove knobs, have them use a stove knob 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.”

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.

 

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