Many older people feel safe and comfortable living at home, surrounded by special memories and cherished treasures accumulated over a lifetime of raising a family, entertaining friends, and celebrating special occasions.
It’s also a place that’s intimately familiar. Most people can easily navigate these familiar surroundings, even in the dark. However, that false sense of security can cause people to move around with less caution, leading to a higher risk of accidental falls.
November is Fall Prevention Month in Canada, the perfect time to raise awareness about the significant danger falling poses to our elderly loved ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling is the number one cause of injuries in people over 65. In addition, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute reports that between 20 and 30 percent of older adults fall each year.
Falls can cause fatal and nonfatal injuries, such as debilitating hip fractures and severe head trauma. The experience of falling can also affect an older person’s mental health, causing them to avoid certain activities they usually enjoy for fear they may fall again.
This is why it’s crucial to proactively take steps to make your older relative’s home as safe as possible. Here are some ways to help cut the risk of falls.
Ensure the home is adequately lit
If some areas of the person’s home are not well-lit, install additional lighting and place night lights in the rooms and hallways. Sound-activated lights or glow-in-the-dark switches can help enhance safety too.
Declutter the living space
Clutter on the floor can pose a significant fall risk. Ensure that all rooms, hallways, stairways, and walking paths are free from boxes, newspapers, shoes and slippers, extension cords, and other items that can be tripped over.
Fix flooring issues
Slipper floor rugs or loose carpets should be removed or secured with double-sided tape. Ensure that wall-to-wall carpet is free from bumps and wrinkles and that any tiles or wood floors are not slippery.
Keep everyday items within reach
Items used daily should be easily accessible and stored in lower cabinets. This minimizes the need to use stepladders, chairs, or other objects to reach items on higher shelves.
Add safeguards to the bathroom
The bathroom can be a dangerous place for older people. Installing grab bars in the bathroom near the toilet and along the bathtub or shower will make this room much safer. Also, place non-slip, adhesive strips or rubber mats on the tub or shower floor. A raised toilet seat made from sturdy plastic can make getting on or off the toilet safer.
Have them dress for safety
Loose-fitting clothes tend to bunch up or drag on the ground, becoming a fall hazard. Ensure your loved one’s wardrobe mainly consists of adequately fitting clothes, and have them wear non-slip socks with grips, slides, slippers, or shoes for walking indoors.
Mark staircases clearly
Coloured or reflective tape at the top of each step can keep stairs visible and mitigate the risk of accidents happening on the staircase. Also, install handrails on both stairs, checking them periodically to ensure they’re secure, and place non-slip treads for bare-wood steps.
Encourage them to move with added care
Falls can happen when one moves too quickly, especially when using stairs or going from sitting to standing (and vice versa). Encourage your loved ones to take their time when moving, and to hold onto something firm, such as a handrail or heavy chair, when possible. Buying them a cane or walker to use around the house can help them move with added safety.
Recommend they live on one level
If possible, have the older person live on just one level of the house to minimize the chance of accidents on the stairs. Also, consider helping them with tasks that require trips to other levels of the home, such as laundry if the washer and dryer are in the basement.
Review their medications with your doctor
Certain medications can cause dizziness and affect coordination, so be sure to review them with your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist. It’s also a good idea to get their vision checked because vision problems may increase their risk of falling.
Use technology to enhance safety
Have your elderly loved one keep a cell phone on their person, or place cordless extension phones throughout the house. You can program emergency numbers right into the phones for quick access when needed. Also, a wearable device such as an Apple Watch can provide fast connectivity when help is needed.
Keep them physically active
If their doctor approves it, your loved one can minimize the risk of accidents in the home by staying physically active. Walks, light gardening, yoga, Tai chi, water aerobics, and other low-impact activities can help improve balance, coordination, strength, and flexibility, which can help prevent falls.
If a loved one does fall or otherwise has an accident, call 911 for help right away. Even if it doesn’t seem serious, getting medical attention sooner rather than later can help diagnose and treat any injuries, especially if they hit their head.
Is your older loved one’s home optimized for safety?
Families are sometimes unsure whether their elderly parent’s home is truly safe enough for them to live in independently. If you’d like a thoughtful professional opinion, CareHop conducts Home Safety Assessments for all our community clients. We’ll work with you and your family to address and solve every safety concern.
Another important safety concern is whether you feel that the person needs more supervision than you can offer and requires assistance with daily activities. If this is the case, consider contacting CareHop for professional, empathetic elder care that helps keep your loved one safe and sound.
Quality in-home elder care in Etobicoke, Toronto West, Mississauga, and Brampton
Taking care of an elderly relative is noble but demanding work. We know it’s hard to be there for them around the clock, so when you need support, CareHop is here.
We specialize in providing thoughtful, respectful, empathetic care that ensures all your loved one’s needs are met. Our team of caregivers can work on a live-in or on-demand basis to ensure that your older relative is happy, thriving, and cared for at all times.
For more information about our programs that focus on your family’s needs, please feel free to get in touch with us anytime.