Senior Safety: Identifying Fall Hazards in Your Home
It’s all too easy for falls to occur at home. If your house has excessive clutter in certain areas, slippery floors, electrical cords in the way, and other similar hazards, you may be more susceptible to falling and sustaining an injury.
While anyone can fall, the risk is far greater for aging adults. In fact, one in four older adults experiences a fall each year, which can result in increased cognitive issues and physical ailments.
However, by identifying the fall hazards in your home, you can significantly decrease your risk. Below, we’ll go over common household hazards room by room and how to handle them.
If you’d like to take additional steps to keep your loved one safe, check out this page to learn eight helpful fall prevention tips for older adults.
Common fall hazards
Many fall hazards are unique to the main rooms of the house. The bedroom, kitchen, stairway, living room, and bathroom all have different dangers that can cause older adults to slip if they aren’t careful.
Below, we’ll identify different obstacles that may be present in each of these main rooms, along with how to better look after these spaces.
The bedroom is one of the most critical areas in your home, so you should do everything you can to keep it hazard-free. Remember: approximately 30% of falls from older adults take place in the bedroom.
Some of the most common hazards in this area of the house are as follows:
If too many items have gathered on your nightstand, such as books, multiple water glasses, and so on, you won’t have enough space for valuable things like a lamp.
If you need to get up in the middle of the night and your closest light switch is across the room, you may not be able to see where you’re going, which can result in tripping and falling.
Furthermore, if too many items are crowded around your lamp, this could result in the light getting knocked over, which is both a tripping hazard and a fire hazard.
Therefore, keep your nightstand as organized as possible. Leave plenty of space for a lamp and only keep items you need on the table, such as a phone or alarm clock.
The floor is one of the most important spaces to keep clean and organized in a bedroom, especially around the bed. If you have blankets, clothes, or similar items sprawled around, you may end up tripping over such obstacles when you get out of bed.
Having hazards so close to your bed could not only cause you to fall but could result in you hitting your head on your nightstand, potentially resulting in a head injury.
Kitchens can be particularly hazardous in the home, with various sharp objects and fire hazards. Some common fall hazards in a kitchen are as follows:
Regularly used items placed too high.
If you have your everyday kitchen items like pots, pans, and dishware placed on a high cabinet, reaching up for those items could cause you to lose your balance and fall. Try keeping your go-to items on a lower shelf or your kitchen counters for easy access.
The rug isn’t secure.
If you have a rug below your kitchen sink for washing dishes, this can be a tripping hazard if the carpet moves around easily. To prevent falls, place a rug pad or grip strips underneath to keep it firmly in place.
The stairway is a common area where older adults suffer falls, as it’s easy to lose balance while walking up and down the stairs and tripping or slipping on one of the steps.
Common hazards for the stairway include:
Stairway handrails are highly recommended for older adults, as a handrail gives them something to reach out for and hold onto if they lose their balance. If you don’t have a sturdy handrail installed, you or your loved ones may be more susceptible to falling.
It’s common for objects to end up on the stairs for days on end before they get taken upstairs. However, leaving items sprawled on the stairs can create a tripping hazard for individuals of all ages, especially older adults. Therefore, try to keep your stairs free of clutter at all times.
Older adults will usually spend a large chunk of their time in the living room, making it vital that the space remains well-organized and hazard-free.
Some common living room hazards include the following:
Exposed electrical cords.
Electrical cords and cables such as extension cords, floor lamp plugs, loose HDMI cables, and other wires can create a real fall risk if not managed properly.
To prevent a tripping hazard, organize your plugs and wires with a cable management tool or change the position of your electronics and lamps to prevent the wires from sticking out where you walk.
Bathrooms can pose a significant fall risk, as the wet surface of the bath and shower after bathing can make slipping very easy. While the presence of water and condensation on the floor and other surfaces can’t be prevented, you can reduce the risk of falls by addressing the following hazards:
Lack of grab bars or assistive equipment.
For older adults who struggle with their balance due to their strength or cognitive function, the presence of assistive equipment and grab bars by the toilet and shower will ensure they have something to hold onto when standing up or exiting the shower.
Add a grip mat to the shower floor.
For older adults who prefer showers to baths, installing a grip mat on the surface of the shower floor will help prevent older ones from slipping on the wet surface.
Identifying the fall hazards in your home will go a long way to preventing you or your loved one from suffering a painful fall.
While you may not always be able to prevent a fall from occurring, keeping your space clutter-free, installing assistive equipment, and keeping regular daily items in easy-to-reach spaces are all ways you can significantly reduce the risk of falling.