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May 7, 2019

Fall-Proof Your Home

How to Fall-Proof Your Home for Safer Aging

Do you want to feel safer and more confident at home?

 Do you want to live without the fear of falling constantly in the back of your mind?

 You shouldn’t have to restrict your life because you’re worried about falling. While falling is risky for older adults, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your likelihood of taking a tumble.

Modify Your Home for Aging-in-Place

Sixty percent of all senior falls happen at home. Maybe it’s because people are less cautious at home, because homes have odd quirks, or simply because it’s where people spend most of their time. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the home is where fall prevention should start.

 The goal of aging-in-place remodeling is to eliminate tripping hazards and make everyday tasks safer and more comfortable. Many home modifications are free or cheap, such as:

  • Removing or securing area rugs and floor mats.
  • Eliminating clutter in walkways.
  • Rearranging furniture to reduce obstacles.
  • Storing frequently-used items within reach.
  • Adding non-slip treads to stairs.
  • Using night lights in bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.
  • Replacing door knobs with levers.

However, these changes only address a few fall risks in the home. To truly maximize safety, invest in aging-in-place home remodeling. These are the most common projects recommended for seniors aging at home:

Interior and exterior lighting design: Senior eyes need more light to see clearly. As eyes age, they’re also slower to respond to changes in lighting intensity. An interior lighting system that combines task, accent, and ambient lighting, along with exterior lighting for safety, reduces falls related to poor vision. While working with your electrician, consider having electrical outlets raised to a comfortable height.

Staircase updates: Where stairs are present around a senior’s home, secure handrails are essential. For added safety, convert small staircases into ramps. Whether on steps or ramps, seniors should avoid walking with both hands full and instead keep one hand free for railing use.

Bathroom remodels: After lighting and staircase improvements, bathroom remodels are the most important aging-in-place adaptation. At minimum, install grab bars near toilets and showers and an elevated toilet seat, if needed. Grab bars are available that double as bathroom accessories, like towel bars. If your budget allows it, install a curbless shower with a built-in bench in place of your shower-tub combo.

Kitchen remodels: Most kitchens only need a few updates. First, replace ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators with styles that have front-access controls and easy-to-use doors. To eliminate the need for step stools, lower kitchen storage by replacing cabinets or installing roll-out and pull-down cabinet organizers. If standing on hard surfaces is uncomfortable, consider installing softer flooring, like vinyl or cork, or adding a seated workspace.

Keep Your Body Healthy and Fit

Home modifications reduce tripping hazards and provide the support you need if you do stumble. However, they don’t change the age-related factors that make you more likely to fall.

Without addressing your health as well as your home, falling will continue to be a danger, especially outside the home. However, you can regain stability by improving your physical health.

Exercise: Exercise is your most valuable tool for reducing fall risk. All seniors should exercise to maintain lower body strength and balance. Even if your body doesn’t feel strong today, you can build strength and regain confidence on your feet.

Nutrition: Seniors who are dehydrated or malnourished are more likely to experience weakness and lightheadedness. It’s also harder to build strength if you’re eating poorly. Watch your diet and water intake to improve overall health.

Medication management: Some medications have side effects that affect mental clarity or balance. Be extra cautious when using certain medications, and discuss medication interactions with your doctor.

Preventing falls is one of the most important things you can do for your quality of life as a senior. Senior falls cause injuries that can turn into lifelong disabilities and even shorten your life. Home remodeling is no small investment, but in this case, it’s an investment in your health.

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