Were you aware that falls account for the greatest number of accidents for adults aged over 65 in the United States? The kitchen is one area where falls in older adults commonly occur.
Anything from an out-of-reach item to a wet floor to a cord on the floor poses a serious fall risk especially to older adults. That’s why it is so important to ensure that you or an elderly loved one stays safe while using the kitchen.
10 Ways to Prevent Falls in the Kitchen
Just about every home gathers more items in various rooms over time than the inhabitants need and the kitchen is no exception. The more clutter you have in the kitchen, the greater the risk of tripping over something, falling, and sustaining injuries.
Decide what pieces of furniture are necessary in the kitchen depending on the number of people living in the house. Try as much as possible to clear the clutter and organize the kitchen.
2. Put Essential Items Within Easy Reach
It takes just one slip from a stool or chair for an injury to occur. That’s why seniors shouldn’t have to climb their way up to get to kitchen essentials on high shelves. A better approach would be to move such items lower to more accessible shelves and cabinets.
Ideally, all pots, pans, and utensils should be kept at waist height of the senior if possible; if not, then they must not exceed shoulder height. All drawers should open and close easily and should be kept close when not in use.
3. Wear Shoes with Non-Skid Soles
Falls might be more prevalent among the older population, but one of the reasons why this is the case is the use of the wrong type of footwear or wearing none at all.
It might be tempting to walk around the house or kitchen in just socked feet, but falls can easily occur if they aren’t wearing non-slip socks.
Elderly individuals should ideally wear athletic shoes or shoes with non-skid soles around the house to maintain traction. Doing that will also help protect them in other hard-floor areas such as the tile floor in the bathroom.
4. Invest in Rugs with Non-Slip Backing
Throw rugs and mats usually seem secure when on a dry surface. However, if the floor is wet and a senior is unfortunate enough to step on the rug, it can end up acting as a tripping hazard. The rug may also trip beneath the senior’s feet thus making them fall.
That’s why it is always advisable to have rugs with non-slip backing in a senior’s kitchen. If such rugs aren’t available, get some non-slip gripper pads to put underneath the rug.
Or, even better, get rid of all rugs and mats for maximum safety and less chance of a trip.
5. Mop Up Spills Immediately
Leaving spilled liquids and sticky or greasy foods on the kitchen floor is looking for trouble, especially when there’s a senior in the house. Always ensure that these are mopped up without delay.
If the senior lives alone and bending over is an issue, it can be a good idea to invest in a lightweight vacuum cleaner that uses either wet or dry floor sheets to get rid of food debris and sticky stains.
6. Provide Good Lighting in the Kitchen
If a senior is unable to see everything in the kitchen, that increases the chance of them tripping and falling. It is always important to ensure that there are no unlit areas or dark corners in the kitchen. Using the right lighting is an important technology to prevent falls for seniors and the elderly.
The areas you need to focus on when it comes to illumination are: over the sink, over the stove top, over the counter tops, and if there are two entrances to the kitchen, you need to have light switches at each entrance.
7. Invest in Nightlights
Nightlights are critical at night when your elderly loved one needs to get up in the middle of thee night.
Install the nightlight in the stairways or hallways that don’t get a lot of natural light. That way, those areas can be lit up without the need to manually turn on the light each time.
Nightlights should be used to illuminate paths from the bed to the kitchen, bathroom, or any other area the senior might need to access during the night.
8. Get Rid of All Wheeled Items
Wheeled items such as chairs can pose a significant fall risk in the kitchen. The hard flooring makes it incredibly easy for such items to spin or move out of control thereby increasing the risk of injury.
If there’s something on wheels, it is best to leave it out of the kitchen. The only exception would be when a senior needs a wheelchair to get around ot other wheeled mobility devices.
9. Regular Exercise
The increased fall risk usually stems from a senior’s physical limitations and challenges. Joint instability, muscle weakness, balance problems, and loss of range of motion all increase the chances of a senior suffering a fall.
Encourage the senior to stay active regularly to keep their body stronger and more responsive. That will not only help reduce the chances of the senior falling but also can help prevent serious injuries in case of a fall.
10. Offer Physical Assistance
Physical assistance can play a significant role in helping a senior handle their daily tasks while reducing the fall risk.
For instance, a senior with mobility or balance problems might find it challenging to access the kitchen to get something, but you or a caregiver can help by providing support and helping them balance.
If that isn’t an option, you can always install grab bars that can give the senior more control over their mobility and ability to navigate and enjoy their kitchen.
Infographic: Ways to Prevent Falls in the Kitchen for Seniors
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Falls are common injuries suffered by seniors and most can be attributed to old age and the health conditions associated with aging. Fall prevention, especially for seniors, means injury prevention.
To ensure that your elderly loved one doesn’t suffer falls while using the kitchen, it is advisable to implement the 10 tips discussed here. All these tips can go a long way towards ensuring that the senior remains safe and independent.