Preventing falls for older people living at home (room-by-room checklist)
Preventing falls for older people who live at home is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. That’s because having a fall can really rattle your confidence to live independently. Thankfully, many falls are preventable if you take the right precautions around the home.
To help you create a safe home environment that supports you as you age, we have created a room-by-room checklist for seniors who want to prevent falls at home.
Even if you think you’re not at risk of a fall, it is something to be conscious of. That is because around 1 in 3 adults over 65 experience at least 1 fall per year. That’s a third of older Australians.
If you feel hesitant to install safety equipment, remember that these modifications will enable you to live independently and with less stress of injuring yourself. Below you will also find the professionals who can help you to make any necessary adjustments around your home.
Use this fall prevention checklist to make each room in your home safe
While the bathroom and stairs are places where falls most commonly happen, there are many ways you can improve your home to prevent the risk of a fall.
This checklist will help you to identify the fall hazards that older people are most susceptible to, so you can ensure your home continues to support your wish to live independently.
If preventing falls is something you’re concerned about, here is a how-to work through each room of your home to create an environment where you feel safe.
- Store heavy objects at waist level, rather than in high places that are hard to reach.
- If you do need to use a safety step to reach items in the kitchen, ensure it is steady.
- Make sure there is enough light at the stovetop, sink and kitchen counters.
- If your cupboards are hard to access, consider installing adjustable shelving. There are many options that swing up, swing down and roll out.
- If your kitchen drawers are hard to open, replace the draw runners so you do not need to use force to open them.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Don’t let items such as books, shoes and boxes clutter the floor, as they are common tripping hazards.
- Telephone cords or electrical extension cords can easily be tripped over. Coil or tape cords next to a wall and don’t run cables across a room.
- If your lounge, chairs or dining room setting is unsteady or hard to get out of, now might be a good time to update them with more practical, comfortable items.
- Install grab rails near the shower, bath and toilet to help prevent falls. Towel rails, shelves and other bathroom fixtures are not designed to be weight bearing and should not be used for support.
- Make sure grab rails are slip-resistant and easy to see. Try selecting a contrasting colour to the wall paint or tiles they are attached to.
- Use a shower seat or bath seat if standing to wash poses a fall hazard.
- Consider installing a walk-in bath or shower for easier access.
- A non-slip bathmat provides extra grip underfoot to help prevent falls.
- Check your bed height – a bed is too low if your knees are above the hips when sitting on it. Bed raisers can make it easier to get in and out bed of every day (but seek professional advice before installing).
- Make sure there is a well-lit path from the bed to the bathroom.
- Put a lamp on the bedside table that is easy to reach and switch on in the dark. Turn on this lamp before getting out of bed at night, so you do not trip on the bed covers or anything else on the floor.
- Keep sheets and blankets tucked away during the day so they do not drape across on the floor
- Repair any loose stairs.
- Make sure there are secure handrails to grab for balance.
- Consider installing anti-slip strips.
- If there is a stair lift installed, make sure the area is free from clutter or items that will impede its safe operation.
Around the home
- Try to keep rooms decluttered so that you can walk around easily. This is particularly important if you have a mobility aid, such as a walking stick or frame.
- Unsecured rugs or damaged carpet are one of the most common causes of falls amongst older people. Repair any torn or fraying carpet, and either secure rugs to the floor or use a double-sided non-slip backing to prevent slippage.
- Nightlights are a good solution for dark hallways, as is rope lighting for hallways that connect the bathroom and bedroom.
- Keep pathways free from moss, algae and leaf litter, which become slippery when wet.
- Each entrance to your house should have at least one sturdy rail for support. Also, install grab rails around any uneven areas of your outdoor area.
- Install a sensor light outside the front and back doors and the garage. It will light your path into the house and is a good security measure as well.
Other things you can do to prevent a fall at a home
As well as keeping these things in mind, the most effective thing you can do is to stay active and eat a nutritious diet. Regular exercise coupled with a good diet is important for maintaining muscle strength and your balance – both of which will help you to move around your home safely. You will find tips for nutrition, exercise and balance in the guide at the end of this post.
It is also a good idea to avoid wearing clothing that you could trip on. If you have pants, dresses or dressing gowns that are too long and drag on the floor, have them hemmed.
Finally, take things at your own pace. Standing up too quickly is a common reason why falls happen, as you may lose your balance or feel light-headed. To prevent this from happening, steady yourself before you get out of a chair. When getting up from bed, sit on the side of the bed for a minute or two before standing.
Where to get help
Some of the changes in the checklist above are simple to make, while others may require professional assistance.
Your CAREGiver can help you to identify potential fall hazards around the home, and your Care Manager can connect you with an occupational therapist to review your home and organise modifications.
If you’re constantly worried about the risk of having a fall, it could be a sign that you require some help at home. In this post about living independently at home, you will find the common signs that indicate you require help and how home care can be organised.
Get more information in our new free guide: How to Keep Safe to Avoid Hospitalisation
The tips in this post were drawn from How to Keep Safe and Avoid Hospitalisation.
It is a comprehensive overview of how to maintain your independence, including:
- Staying nourished
- 10 things you can do now to protect your senses
- Keeping your physical and mental health in check
- Asking for help at home
This is a free resource with lots of ideas to help you avoid preventable accidents. Save your copy to refer to later.