Getting older can change the environment for home safety. Areas that once were completely fine, such as bathrooms or hallways with area rugs, may now look to a senior citizen like an obstacle course threatening their movement and their safety. As people get older, it can become difficult or impossible to navigate home areas that once were totally comfortable.
Not only that, but it can become dangerous. More than 800,000 people 65 or older are hospitalized every year because of an injury caused by a fall, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Frequently, the injuries are hip fractures or head injuries, which can lead to complications and death.
Hazards in the home are one of the most frequent sources of falls. Slippery bathrooms, area rugs and uneven walking surfaces, like broken or cracked stairs in front of the home, are often culprits.
So how do you make your home safer for senior citizens? Here are seven ways.
Grab Bars in the Bathroom
Bathrooms are probably the single riskiest place in the home for seniors. The surfaces of bathtubs and showers are often made of porcelain or tile, which is slippery to begin with. Then, they are often wet. People have to step into and out of bath and shower areas, which can be risky as they become older —especially with ailments such as arthritis or balance impairment.
Grab bars are a good solution to the risk of falling, and they can be placed in multiple locations:
- In baths and showers to make stepping in and out more convenient
- Within reach of bath and shower areas to help with stepping and walking
- Near the toilet
- At specific places where walking might be risky
They are also a safe alternative to towel racks. Seniors who start to slip or feel at risk of slipping may be tempted to grab a towel rack to arrest the fall. Towel racks often buckle under the weight, as they were not designed to support the weight of a person. Grab bars are.
Bath Mats and Decals
Nonskid bathmats with rubber tips can be used both in the bath or shower and immediately outside of it to minimize the risk of falls. Nonskid decals in a decorative pattern are an effective alternative to bathmats on the floor of a bathtub or shower.
Sometimes the safety issue in bathrooms can be getting into the bathtub itself, especially for people with mobility and balance challenges. A walk-in bathtub can be a welcome alternative for seniors who have found stepping over the lip of a bathtub difficult, but enjoy the comfort and convenience of a bath.
While the construction and renovation required to build a walk-in bathtub can be more expensive than some of the other senior safety measures here, walk-in bathtubs can mean the difference between a senior being able to live independently in their own home and moving to assisted living.
Bath Transition Chairs
Bath transition chairs ease the transition between bathtub and outside. Rather than stepping inside at all, a senior can sit on the chair, get comfortable and then transition into the bathtub. This can help with stiffness and balance issues.
One of the most common causes of falls is not obstacles themselves, but inadequate lighting. Especially as we age, we may need more light to see properly. As a result, every area in the home needs to be lit sufficiently for seniors to see. This includes bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, hallways, living rooms, basements and attics.
It’s important to pay specific attention to areas that perhaps didn’t need to be lit before a senior’s eyesight became weaker, such as hallways and foyers.
Secure Area Rugs
If there are currently area rugs in the home that simply rest upon a surface, securing them can be a smart safety move. As we grow older and experience mobility and balance issues, even the small difference in height between a floor and an area rug can become difficult to navigate. As a result, tripping over an area rug becomes a danger. An area rug that is not secured can also slip.
Another related danger is a slick floor that becomes dangerous to walk on for seniors. This can happen with polished hardwood, tile or concrete floors. In those cases, a secure area rug can make the previously uncovered floors safer.
Repair or Remove Steps
Broken or cracked front steps can be a danger for seniors as the uneven surfaces can be difficult to walk on. In addition, steps within the home, even a few steps down to a living room, can make rooms unsafe.
The solution is to repair broken or cracked steps and to remove steps that are difficult or impossible to navigate. Ramps are a solution that will work both inside and out.
Falls are a danger to senior health and to their peace of mind. These seven steps can make your home safer for seniors. It can also make seniors more comfortable and allow them to live independently.