No matter how healthy and fit we are as we age or whether we live at home or in a senior living community, once we pass 65 we are unfortunately at greater risk of falling. The CDC estimates that risk at 25%; if we do actually take a tumble, the risk of a second spill rises to 50%. We’re at greater overall risk for a number of age-related reasons, including muscle loss (which actually begins in our 30s), vision and depth-perception problems, a weaker sense of balance, loss of flexibility, and declining endurance. The result? Falls are the leading cause of injuries, trauma-related hospital admissions, and injury-related deaths in Americans 65 and up.
The truth is that many of these mishaps are preventable, which is good news for those of us who might be concerned about a parent or loved one. Prevention begins at home, with a thorough review of mom or dad’s living space. Here are five steps you can take right now to reduce your loved one’s risk of injury:
- Declutter: Start by removing tripping hazards like throw rugs and area rugs. Reorganize electrical cords so that they’re bundled and out of the way, or firmly tape down any that need to stay put. Move any dog beds or hassocks against the wall, keeping only the essentials in each room.
- Enhance lighting: Install wireless, motion sensitive lighting in stairways or hallways to keep night time walks to the bathroom safe. Convert table-side lamps to be touch-activated so that even the stiffest fingers can switch them on with ease. Make sure all bathrooms – maybe the kitchen too – have nightlights installed.
- Make bathrooms safer: Considering the fact that 80% of senior falls happen in the bathroom, it’s critical to make sure all proper precautions are taken. Install grab bars for climbing in and out of the shower, and make sure mom has a shower chair. Tubs should have rubber non-slip strips or decals, and bath mats should be firmly secured. Install a raised toilet seat with grab bars adjacent, and make sure the toilet paper dispenser is reachable.
- Create easy home access: Install motion sensor lighting at all doorways and make sure steps to the home are properly maintained. Brick stairs and walkways can settle over time and create unintended tripping hazards, so make sure they’re level, or consider replacing with something more suitable. In the winter months, make proper arrangements for snow and ice removal. If Dad has a garage, make sure all entrances have motion sensors to avoid injury.
- Keep important items within reach: Many home falls result from retrieving mundane items like the remote control or reading glasses. Find a convenient spot for anything Mom uses often during the day – ideally one that doesn’t require walking.
Want more tips? Head to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re unsure if staying at home is the best choice for your self or your loved one, take a look at our Stay or Go guide. It’s packed with information that helps you choose the living style best suited to your needs. Click the link and find out if a senior living community may be what you’re looking for!