When an older person falls, they are a lot more likely than a younger person to fracture a bone or be seriously injured. A bad fall can have devastating consequences such as putting the person permanently in a wheelchair or damaging the brain if they hit their head when they fall.
Though there is much that can be done to modify the home to make it safer, a lot of the most important changes lie with the senior himself or herself. As a person gets older, they need to exercise more caution, understanding that the stakes are now higher. They cannot be too proud to use a cane, walker, or even wheelchair when their doctor informs them that it would be in their best interest. They have to inform their doctor if they are experiencing any issues with dizziness or their balance, including as a possible side effect to any medication they are taking. If they need help-such as someone’s arm to hold when walking in an icy area, or someone to get something down from a high shelf for them-they have to be willing to speak up and ask for it. They need to remember not to stand up too quickly from a sitting or lying position, as this can cause them to become dizzy.
But in addition, a senior’s living space can and should be modified with safety in mind. To start with, there are many ways that a bathroom can be modified to lessen the chances of an elderly person falling, some as simple as the installation of a nightlight, or the placement of adhesive strips or a rubber suction bathmat in the shower or bath tub.
Many risks in the bathroom come when an elderly person has difficulty getting up and down. A higher toilet seat can help, as can a shower seat and hand held shower spray. You especially want to avoid an elderly person grabbing a towel rack or something inappropriate in an effort to lift themselves up. Install a grab bar instead for this purpose, in the shower area and possibly by the toilet.
Throw or scatter rugs tend to be a tripping hazard in the bathroom, or elsewhere in the house for that matter. Carpeting should always be firmly attached to the floor, with no flaps to trip over. The floor should not be cluttered. There should be sufficient lighting throughout the house.
Certainly spills, such as in the kitchen or the garage, should be cleaned up promptly before anyone has a chance to slip.
In winter, all walkways around the house should be shoveled and kept clear of snow and ice.
Stairs are an especially treacherous area for an older person with balance issues. In fact, if at all possible such a person should not be living where they have to go up and down stairs.
Stairs should always be carpeted or have adhesive strips or some kind of non-skid treatment. There should be railings. Any broken or loose stairs should be repaired promptly.
Falls are a very big deal for an elderly person with brittle bones. It is well worth it to take every available precaution to avoid them.
Marian Anne Eure, “Preventing Falls.” About.com.
Laurie Kaiser, “How to Prevent Falls in the Home.” eHow.
“Preventing Falls in the Home.” NAMIC.