Create a safe home: How to prevent falls in the elderly living at home
At scuseme, we receive lots of calls and enquiries from people who want to make their homes safe. A number of these are from older people who live independently. As we head into our later life, we become much more vulnerable to an injury in the home. Sadly, falls are the most common cause of death from injury in the over 65s. However, there is much we can do to proof homes against the risk from falls and precautions we can take.
It is a common misconception that accidents among the elderly are usually falling on stairs or in bathrooms. Injuries and dangers throughout the home can happen in many ways. Although pitched at the elderly, this list has value for anyone looking to make sure their home is as safe as possible. If you need help, all scuseme tradespeople are personally vetted. Many are DBS checked and we even have some who are Age UK certified. At the end of the article, you can find details of free services in Cambridge for help and support.
Use this list to check every room in the house for hazards.
- Use the handrail; it’s there for a reason. And if you don’t have one, fit one that runs the full length of the stairs.
- Check the tread or carpet and replace or remove if it is worn.
- Keep stairs clear all the time from shoes, books, etc.
- Install adequate stair lighting with switches at the top and bottom.
- Check that all rugs and carpets are flat and do not bunch up. If they do either remove them or invest in rugs with non-slip rubber backing or get self-adhesive mat grippers.
- Rearrange furniture to provide clear access and think how chairs and tables might help support you as you pass.
- Never run cords under a rug where these might add a trip risk.
- Maintain good condition of furniture and discard anything that feels unstable or may be a trip hazard, such as low coffee tables or foot rests.
- Make sure your kitchen has proper ventilation, because carbon monoxide or indoor air pollutants may accumulate.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the appropriate place and inspect regularly.
- Do not use slippery wax or polish on hard floors. Instead use equal parts oil and vinegar.
- Get a sturdy step-stool with a handrail for hard to reach places and keep commonly used items within easy reach.
- Use non-slip mats in the bath and shower.
- Check that the shower doors are made of safety glass or plastic.
- Install grab bars as needed by the toilet, bath and shower.
- Towel rails should be sturdy and installed correctly.
- Mats are useful to prevent slippery floors, but make sure they are non-slip.
- Install a hand-held shower.
- Place a folding chair in the shower
- Use safe flooring; a textured tile, a matte finish or a low pile carpet.
- Use adaptive equipment if needed such as an elevated toilet seat or bath bench.
- Lighting should be even, sufficient and glare-free with the switch near the door.
- Have proper ventilation, either windows or an exhaust fan.
- Keep items near to hand, to avoid stretching and over balancing.
- Place a light within easy reach of your bed and consider fitting a main light switch near to the bedside.
- Consider a small motion sensitive nightlight. Then if you get up in the middle of the night your path to the bathroom is lit, helping minimise the risk of a fall.
- Ensure there is a clear pathway between the bedroom and bathroom.
- Check how you store clothing and keep things you wear often within easy reach.
- Remove any unwanted or unused furniture that may be a fall hazard.
- Remove or secure rugs and repair any loose flooring that may be a trip hazard.
- Keep things you need quickly (glasses or phone) within easy reach.
- Keep a torch near your bed in case of a power cut.
- Have a sturdy chair with arms so you can sit to dress if need be.
- Get the height of your bed right, you should be able to sit comfortably.
- Consider additional safety devices as needed such as bed rails, bars or a floor to ceiling pole to steady yourself.
Entrances and paths
- Repair pathways and driveways to remove trip hazards.
- Remove thresholds from doors and if that is not possible get a little ramp to make it easier to get over.
- Add rails to one or both side of steps.
- Have a ready supply of salt or grit for slippery paths.
- Remove hazards such as leaves and ice from driveways and pathways.
- Invest in outdoor or sensor lights.
Help at hand in Cambridge
Falls do not have to be an inevitable part of getting older. Staying fit and healthy will make you stronger and therefore less likely to fall. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and the Cambridgeshire local authorities understand the benefits of exercises designed to improve muscle strength which can reduce your risk of a fall by improving your posture, coordination and balance. These free initiatives will give you the ability to do more of what you enjoy.
- Find out about an appointment for a free falls risk assessment here
- Take part in strength and balancing classes to improve mobility here
- Help with mobility aids here