When it comes to caring for elder family members, it can be easy to overlook the dangers already present in their everyday lives. It is important to take care at home to make modifications that allow elder family members to move freely and safely through their daily routines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that each year, 3 million older people are treated for falls and fall-related injuries in emergency rooms. And one out of five falls will result in a more severe injury, such as a head injury, that can require extensive care and leave a lasting impact.
While the statistics can be grim, there are lots of proactive ways to ensure that an elderly family member can be secure in their home. If you’re worried about an elder family member’s mobility, or just want to know how to make their environment safer, review these steps and decide which ones you can take action on with your loved one.
Safer floors and safer walking
Start with the basics. The first step to safer mobility is to make walking around the home a safer activity. The more you can do to take care at home that a senior’s everyday environment is safe, the more able your loved one can be in taking care of their everyday needs.
- Secure area rugs and carpets to the floor. Get rid of any high-pile carpets or other rugs that may cause slipping or falling.
- Consider covering hardwood with anchored carpets. Where hardwood can be smooth or easier to slip on, carpet provides additional traction.
- Rug anchors or non-slip rug pads can be used under area rugs and throw rugs. These make the rug less likely to shift underfoot.
As a general rule, every rug or carpet should require some effort to move or adjust. Test any rug in your loved one’s home, and especially the rugs in any commonly-used areas.
A floorplan that makes mobility easier
The way a home is laid out can also increase an elderly person’s mobility. Take a fresh look at the floorplan of your loved one’s home, and how each space is used. Consider these strategies to make their home easier for them to navigate.
- Widen walkways. Arrange furniture so that hallways, doorways, spaces between pieces of furniture, and any commonly used paths are as wide as possible. This might mean getting rid of large décor, or choosing to get rid of end tables and other smaller furniture items.
- Make necessities easy to access. Think about food on high shelves, clothing in closets, dishes in upper cabinets, and anything else that could be reorganized in a space that is easier to reach. The less strain your loved one has to use to get to these commonly used items, the more likely it is that they’ll be safe in moving around their home.
- Light up the space. Every single room in an elderly person’s home should have adequate lighting that is easy for them to turn on and off. Automatic nightlights can be placed in corners, hallways, bathrooms, or the kitchen. Look for spaces in which turning on the light means walking into a dark room, and place a nightlight there too. Making those few steps safer can mean ensuring the health of your loved one.
Securing hazardous and challenging spaces
Bathrooms and stairwells are common sites for tripping and falling. Knowing this, take extra precautions in these areas of your loved one’s home.
- Make sure all railings are secure. Every set of stairs should have a handrail or guardrail, and you should check to make sure it is steady and can hold weight. Stabilizing any loose rails now may make a big difference later.
- Apply non-slip adhesive strips to the stairs. Anti-slip treads or tape can be found at most home improvement stores, and are meant to be applied to the middle of each step in the stairwell.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom. Having one in the shower or bathtub is particularly important, as stepping in and out of a wet space can be particularly challenging for an elderly person. Grab bars should also be available near the toilet, and any part of the bathroom where your loved one needs to turn or move around in order to use the space.
Going the extra mile
Consider the advantages of professional care at home. An in-home care provider can help to fall-proof a home, and can help identify possible hazards in a home and how to mediate them. Professional caregivers can also help with getting to appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, and other everyday tasks that can be impacted by mobility. Having professional care at home also means that your loved one has immediate assistance in the event of a fall or any other need.