According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three older adults over the age of 65 fall each year. If you have aging parents, it’s important to determine when it’s time to “fall proof” their home or living area. Mercy therapist Cindy Hallgren provides 14 helpful tips on how to do that.
Today seniors are living longer than ever and, understandably, want to maintain their independence as long as possible within their own homes. However, if you have aging parents, you will most likely see the roles of parent and child reverse as aging parents increasingly require more care. Preventing falls can become an important part of that care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three older adults over the age of 65 fall each year. Six out of 10 falls happen within the home, according to the National Institutes of Health. Falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths for these individuals, and they are the among the leading causes of traumatic brain injury.
Signs That Fall Proofing Is Needed
However, falls are preventable, and there are many signs that it’s time to “fall proof” a home or living space. That’s because many different things can cause a fall. Here are just a few:
- Muscle weakness
- Impaired vision
- Poor lighting
- Cluttered areas
- Slick floors
- Improper footwear
- Medications that can cause dizziness
What You Can Do to ‘Fall Proof’ a Home or Other Living Space
Although aging is not the only reason for falls, and we cannot prevent the effects of aging, we can remove hazards within and around the home that can lead to falls.
- Remove anything that can cause you to slip or trip while walking, such as clutter, electrical or telephone cords, and throw rugs.
- Arrange furniture to allow for larger and more open walking spaces.
- Keep items out of hallways, pathways, and on stairs.
- Avoid walking on wet floors and clean up floor spills immediately.
- Use non-skid wax to clean floors and non-slip strips for floors, in bathtubs and showers, and on steps.
- Secure carpets to floors and on stairs.
- Increase available lighting in rooms, on stairs, at entrances, and on outdoor walkways.
- Use the highest wattage light bulbs in lamps and place nightlights in the kitchen, bathrooms, and in hallways.
- Keep a flashlight near the bed in case of a power outage.
- Install grab bars in the tub or shower and by the toilet, and use them every time.
- Place handrails on both sides of stairwells or walkways, and encourage using one rail when carrying anything.
- Keep frequently used items within easy reach, including clothing in closets, to decrease the risk of using foot stools or ladders.
- Don’t sit on furniture that is too low or so soft that causes it to be too difficult to stand up.
- Take caution when outdoors: wear boots with good traction, avoid going out alone on icy or snow covered areas, and spread sand or salt on icy surfaces in snowy weather.
Talk to Your Parents About the Benefits of Fall Proofing
The role reversal that takes place when caring for your aging parents can be a difficult and challenging task to undertake. Your help and advice also may not be well received as your parents work to maintain their independence. You may need to have a discussion with them about how much you love and value them and want to keep them safe. Talk about how this will make their lives easier by taking the above precautions. Always encourage them to stay physically active and strengthen their lower bodies to help them improve their balance. Finally, be present and available to assist them in any way as they were there for you growing up.