An elderly person falling can be devastating. Falls lead to bumps and bruises at best and severe injury or death at the worst.
Because of age and medical condition, elderly people often have a difficult time recovering from a fall. Their bones do not heal well. If surgery is required, anesthesia is risky.
Often a fall creates a new batch of medical problems the senior did not have before. The risks of pressure sores, infections, and kidney problems rise dramatically.
What’s the best solution for this problem? Try to keep them from falling in the first place!
Have a plan in place to reduce the chance of an fall. To help you with this, here are some of the ideas I give my patients when I am in their homes.
How to Prevent Falls for Elderly People
The key to reducing the chances of elderly people falling is to eliminate as many of the risks as possible.
Walk through every room of the home and use these checklists as a guide to look for fall risks. Often, seniors will not want things in their home moved or “disturbed”. They may want to compromise, but remember there is no compromising their safety.
Falls are common among the elderly – too common in fact. The CDC reports that 29 million older Americans had fallen in 2014. leading to 7 million injuries. More than 27,000 deaths a year are caused by falls.
Preventing falls in the first place is serious business.
If you are a loved one are at high risk for falling, consider a medical alert system for quick response in the even a fall does happen.
Preventing Senior Falls in the Living Room
Elderly falls are very common in the living room.
Think about it. This is the room where seniors spend most of their day. Perhaps this is where they watch TV from their favorite recliner. Or it’s the room where they read the newspaper or a good book.
Since they spend so much time in this room, they also come in and out of the room several times a day. This is when the opportunity for a fall happens.
Living Room Fall Prevention Checklist
- Look at the senior’s footwear. All shoes should have firm soles and be secured including slippers. Loose, floppy shoes may come off while walking.
- Make sure the living room is brightly lit, even during the day. This helps the senior see the room better and can identify trip hazards before they happen.
- All rugs should be secured or, better yet, removed. If rugs are in the room, use a non-slip rug pad under them and tack the edges down. A flipped over corner of a rug will lead to a fall.
- Keep frequently used items close like the remote, reading glasses, and reading material. Have the home phone on a table next to the senior’s favorite seat. If they use a cordless phone, this is a good place for the base.
- Look around for electrical cords and extension cords. Route them along the wall so that the risk of tripping on them is eliminated. No cords crossing the walking path. Keep cords from vacuum cleaners and other appliances out of the way.
- Keep the walkway path clear of, well, everything. Keep toys, newspapers, books, etc picked up and out of the way. Train others in the home (including children and adults) to keep things picked up and out of the way.
- Teach the elderly person how important it is to look around their feet and down their path before they take off.
- Of course, if the senior feels dizzy or like they are losing their balance as they stand, have them sit back down and call for help.
Eliminating Senior Fall Risk in the Kitchen
The kitchen is another room of the home where seniors and elderly spend a lot of time.
It’s the room where they kick off their day with a cup of coffee and breakfast. It’s also where they eat other meals and snacks throughout the day.
So, it is important to keep the path clear as they travel back and forth through the kitchen.
Kitchen Fall Prevention Checklist
- Throw rugs and mats are often used by the elderly – especially in the kitchen. The best idea is to get rid of them. If not, use non-slip rug mats under them and secure the edges with rug tape to keep them from flipping over.
- Locate the trash can so that it is easy to get to in as few steps as possible but also not in an area where it can be tripped over.
- Keep the senior’s most commonly used small appliances like microwaves and coffee makers on the countertop. This reduces the fall risk from them bending over to get them out of a cabinet.
- Put the most commonly used dishes and drinkware on the lowest shelf of the cabinets. The reduces the temptation to use a stool or stand on tippy toes to get an item. If a stool is necessary, get a step stool with a handle and rubber non-slip pad.
- Same for the refrigerator, keep their favorite items at arm level to minimize bending over.
- Teach the senior to do food prep while seated at the table instead of standing. This will help keep save their energy. Use safer utensils if they have dexterity or hand problems to reduce the chance of an injury.
- Do not use any slick cleaners or floor wax on the floor that could lead to a slippery surface.
- Train everyone in the home to clean up spills immediately. Keep a mop or other cleaning device with a long handle loaded and ready to go. Never let a senior get on their hands and knees to clean up a spill.
Reducing Fall Risks in the Bedroom
Falls frequently happen in the bedroom especially when the senior is getting in and out of bed.
Many seniors get out of bed multiple times per night as well to use the bathroom. Walking in a dark room at night is inviting a fall.
Bedroom Fall Prevention Checklist
- Teach to senior to lay in bed for a few minutes after waking so that they are fully awake before moving. Have them sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before getting up.
- Keep the room well lit especially at night. Use a nightlight that automatically turns on in the dark. Have an easy to use lamp close by on the nightstand so that the elderly person can turn it on quickly.
- For nighttime bathroom trips, keep the bathroom light on or a night light close to the light switch so the senior can see where to turn the light on.
- Use a standing aid bed rail to help the elderly person get up and down off the bed safely. These rails attach to the bed and give a supportive handle to hold onto.
- If it is too risky for the senior to get up on their own due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, use a bed alarm to wake their caretaker when they get out of bed.
- Look at the height of the bed. If the bed is too high, the risk of falling is significantly increased. The mattress should be about chair seat height meaning the senior should be able to easily sit on the mattress like a chair. It also shouldn’t be so low that they struggle to get back up. Buy a lower profile bed frame or bed risers as necessary to get the best height.
- Keep commonly used items like alarm clocks, glasses, reading materials, and a phone next to the bed on the nightstand. Try to eliminate reasons to get up during the night.
- Look over the walking path in the bedroom. Think about walking that path in the dark. Arrange the furniture so that the path is straight as possible. Remove smaller pieces or decorative items like plants that are tripping hazards.
- Put commonly used clothing items in the closet on shelves that are in arms reach. Lower the clothing rods if the senior cannot reach them without a stool or tippy toes. Store shoes and accessories on a shelf at arm level to reduce bending over.
Fall Prevention in the Laundry Room
This is a forgotten area on many other fall prevention checklists.
But I would argue that falls are as likely here as in the kitchen.
Here is how to prevent falls in the laundry room.
Laundry Room Fall Prevention Checklist
- Front load washers and dryers on risers are safer for elderly people because they minimize the amount of bending over required.
- Clean up any soapy messes immediately to avoid slips and falls.
- Take the same rug precautions as before – remove them completely or make sure they are secure.
- Watch the placement of laundry baskets making sure they are not in the walkway.
- Put detergents and other cleaning products on a shelf about arm height so that no climbing or bending over is required.
- Use a closet bar to hang clothing on and make sure it is low enough that it can be easily reached.
Fall Prevention in the Bathroom
The bathroom is where elderly people worry about falling the most.
And it’s no wonder why.
The bathroom mixes dangerous elements like water, slippery soap, and hard surfaces.
But there are many bathroom safety products you can put in place to reduce the risk of a bathroom fall.
Fall Prevention Checklist for Bathrooms
- Put commonly used items in an easy to reach location
- Eliminate the use of throw rugs, if possible. If not, make sure they are secured to the floor and will not slip.
- Use night lights for nighttime bathroom use. I recommend motion-activated night lights because they automatically click on when the senior enters the room.
- Wear non-slip shoes like shower shoes when in wet areas like the bathroom.
- Secure the tub and shower with the bathing and shower checklist below
- Review the toilet safety checklist below to prevent falls while using the toilet.
Toileting Fall Prevention Checklist
- Mount toilet paper holder within arm’s reach. Do not use loose rolls on the back of the toilet where they could fall off and the senior has to bend over to get them.
- Remove all decorative rugs around the toilet.
- Consider a raised toilet seat for elderly people who need a little help getting up and down but have good balance.
- Do not use walkers or canes to get up and down from the toilet. These can tip and cause a fall. Only secure items like toilet safety rails should be used for this. Grab bars could also be mounted to assist.
- Elderly with severe mobility problems may want to use a bedside commode or potty chair instead of coming to the bathroom for toileting.
- For a universal solution, use a bedside commode (potty chair) over the toilet. These are also called 3 in 1 commodes because they have multiple purposes. Raise the legs and the commode will fit right over the toilet – this elevates the toilet seat. Use the arms of the potty chair to stand and sit like toilet safety rails.
Bathing and Shower Fall Prevention Checklist
- Use grab bars to give the elderly person a firm base of support while getting in and out of the tub. The permanently installed ones are safest followed by suction cup models. This reduces the chance of tripping over the tub edge.
- Get a shower chair especially for seniors who cannot stand for long periods or have balance issues. The best shower chairs are the ones with backs because they offer more support.
- Consider a transfer bench if the senior has difficulty getting in and out of the tub AND also has weakness and balance problems. A transfer bench allows them to sit down outside of the tub and scoot over into the tub while remaining seated.
- Choose a good bath mat for use in the tub. Make sure it doesn’t float and covers the entire surface.
- Handheld shower heads are safest for elderly bathers who cannot stand. I have written a full guide to handheld shower heads and recommend extra long hoses with the controls built into the handle.
- Keep soaps and shampoos within easy reach.
Fall Prevention for the Elderly
Hopefully, this guide and these checklists are helpful to you.
I encourage you to walk each room of your home now and check each item.
Look around each room for anything that the senior could trip over. A senior with walking problems who shuffles along can trip over a 1/4″ difference in height.
There are places that will help seniors make repairs to their home so they stay safe.
We all want our elderly loved ones to stay safe!
Do you have recommendations for fall prevention for elderly people? Any experience or ideas you would like to share with the readers? Please leave a comment below!