Whether you live at home or live in a facility, there are a few things that are necessary for seniors in regards to their living quarters. Falls are the number one concern for seniors. If they fall there is a chance that they could end up hospitalized or with an injury that decreases their mobility and independence. Seniors cling to their independence and want to be respected. Anytime a senior is hospitalized there is a chance they will never return home, and especially with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, there is a chance they would be unable to see their loved ones for a long period of time or ever again depending on the severity of the fall. The following are five ways to make sure the living space is fall-proof.
Tripping Hazards- Removing as much clutter as possible should be the first place to start. Get rid of or properly store items that are not needed for everyday living. The more things that are laying around, the more chances there are to trip and fall over something. Cords should be tucked out of the way as far as possible. It is recommended they run up against walls or even taped or stapled down. All flooring should be repaired to maintain an even surface, especially outdoor steps that are often chipped and damaged. Do not simply cover a bad floorboard with a rug. This could exacerbate the issue.
Walking Paths- Walking paths throughout the home of a senior citizen should be wider than average. There should be plenty of space in between furniture for your loved one to get around. Walking paths should also be carpeted or covered by a large area rug. If small rugs are in use it is necessary for them to be secured by a piece of furniture or double sided tape so that they do not cause a fall. Many seniors begin to shuffle their feet meaning that they do not lift them as high between steps. Because of this, rugs are a dangerous option and should be used wisely.
Bathrooms- Naturally, bathrooms are not carpeted. This makes bathrooms a natural fall risk because of hard flooring. Bathrooms are often wet and there are many ways water can get to the floor causing a slippery surface. You can increase the safety of a bathroom by adding rails and grab bars, a raised toilet seat, non-slip mats in the tub and or shower, and photosensitive night light. A handheld shower head is an inexpensive upgrade while a walk-in shower is more pricey but may be the best option.
Lighting- As we age our eyesight deteriorates, and lighting can help the eyes not have to strain. Proper lighting is needed day and night to illuminate walkways. Especially at night, making sure common paths are well-lit could reduce the risk of fall. Don’t just think of night lights. In the winter months when it is dark at 5:00 pm it will be important for your loved one to have a well-lit kitchen and living area. LED daylight style bulbs give off a bright light without a yellow hue that is easy to see. Don’t forget outdoor lighting, either. Seniors are at higher risk for being victims of a crime. Outdoor lighting can help decrease crime and can help your loved one identify who is outside and whether or not they want to let them in.
Thoughtful Placement- Make everyday items easily accessible. Hopefully you have decluttered, but if not, at least take the time to put the most important things within easy reach. If things can be easily accessed then your loved one will not be trying to stand on stools, chairs or do anything physically straining to get to what they need. This could also mean purchasing multiple of some things to have one in each room.
When looking for a care facility for your senior, be sure to get a tour in person or virtually, so that you can see the layout options of the rooms. Be mindful when you are bringing loved ones furniture and personal items that they follow the guidelines listed above. When touring the facility you should also pay close attention to the layout of the facility. Are there handrails in the hallways? Are the walkways wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass easily? Are there rugs and furniture that could be a risk to those who are prone to falls? What fall protocols do they have in place if a resident does fall? Do they provide a call button and where is it located? The Gables Assisted Living and Memory Care of Idaho Falls offers a walk-in shower with grab bars, three different suite sizes and layouts, and a kitchenette in each room so that your loved one has easy access to everything they need. Having the right living space is the best way to ensure lasting independence by decreasing the risk of falls.