CareAcademy Blog

Senior Care Home Safety Tips to Prevent Falls

As a family caregiver or professional senior care provider, you need to know about how to make any environment safe for the person in your care.

Preventing Falls is a Big Part of Senior Care

Take a look at the environmental safety tip-list we’ve put together for every room in your house. Here’s all the ways we recommend senior care givers prevent falls around a home.

Living Room Safety Tips

Problem areas for falls in this living room include:
  • cords that run across the floor
  • slippery hardwood floors or tiles
  • carpet edges, throws, or rugs that are not secured to the floor
  • sofa or chair that is at an improper height
Prevent falls in the living room
  • Remove clutter, and rearrange furniture to have a clear walking path.
  • Keep mops, brooms, sponges, or other cleanup tools accessible within reach to wipe messes from the floor
  • Either remove throw rugs completely, or tack them down to ensure they don’t slip.
  • If the coffee table is too low, remove it. A coffee table should be at a comfortable height to use while sitting on a chair or sofa.
  • Make sure couches are not too low and enables them to access transfer pole to assist with sitting and standing.
  • Make sure that items the patient commonly uses (the phone, eyeglasses, remote control) or within reach when you leave.
  • Sofas should have armrests to support the individual while standing up.
  • Proper height of a sofa or chair means that the older adult can sit on the edge with both feet resting comfortably on the floor. A sofa or chair that is too high or too low can result in a fall when an elder is either trying to get down on the chair or trying to get up.

Senior Care Professional’s Safety Tips for Steps and Staircases

Even though the bathroom is the most common place for falling in the home, the stairs are the most common place for serious injury from a fall. Several areas on these stairs are common risk factors in most homes:
  • Lack of handrails
  • Low or lack of lighting
  • Poor carpeting, hanging edges
Prevent Falls on the Steps or a Staircase
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairwell. Handrails should be round to ensure good grip. Rails should extend beyond the last step to help the older adult recognize they are on solid ground.
  • Remove any stair runner rugs
  • Fix broken steps or coverings.
  • Convince the older adult to move their bedroom to a room on the first floor.  This minimizes the threat of suffering a fall by– for instance – walking up or down a flight of stairs in the dark, or even using stairs while exhausted and barely awake

Senior Care Truths & Myths About Preventing Falls

Here are a few practices that do not effectively prevent falls and may, in some cases, increase the risk:
  • Wearing socks that do not have a grip or shoes with no tread.  Instead, make sure the older adult is wearing proper shoes, even in the house. Shoes should fit well and have some non-slip tread on the bottom. Older adults should avoid going barefoot in the house, wearing shoes with a heel, or wearing slippers. Shoes that tie or have velcro to close stay on snugly and are ideal.
  • Wearing bifocals while on stairs.  This can also cause problems because bifocals can impair the eye’s ability to judge depth and detect obstacles. We recommend most older adults use single-lensed glasses while on stairs.
  • Hip protectors are hard plastic shields or soft foam pads usually fitted in pockets in specially designed underwear to provide padding on the hips. Hip protectors probably reduce the risk of hip fractures in older people living in nursing homes, but unfortunately have not been shown to reduce hip fractures in older people that live at home.

Additional Locations for Falls

Quality senior care also involves attending to two additional locations in the home where falls frequently occur:
  • Transitional Areas:  Fall injuries occur frequently at the edge where the carpet meets the floor. These so-called “transitional areas” are often at different heights or textures and may pose a problem for the rubber tips of canes or crutches.  Transitional areas also frequently occur in areas where there is a difference in lighting.
  • Car:  It is actually very common for older adults to fall when getting out of a car.  Why?  Well, car seats are usually soft, cushy and low to the ground. This can make it hard for an older adult to get up from sitting in one. If this is the case, they should see a physical therapist.  Occupational therapists can help to assess other physical issues that can impede someone from using their car.
 

Professional senior care involves making every space safe for the adult you care for. Check out the CareAcademy online class for preventing falls in older adults.

 

Dr. Reddy is a specialist in Internal Medicine & Geriatric Medicine. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School & Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA. She has seen the struggles that families and caregivers go through when caring for adults. Through CareAcademy, she intends to improve people's lives. Dr. Reddy's research is published as journal articles and book chapters. She has also authored a book for family caregivers.

Madhuri ReddySenior Care Home Safety Tips to Prevent Falls

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