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Choosing a Safer Rug for Your Elderly Loved One

Choosing a Safer Rug for Your Elderly Loved One

While the safest rug is usually not having one at all, many elderly people refuse to give up the comforts of home. So, if you must, choose a rug with a thin profile, low pile, and a no-slip backing to reduce the chances of a fall.
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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Safer Rug For Your Elderly
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There’s nothing quite like that feeling of comfort that a rug can lend to an otherwise hardwood or cold floor. They offer comfort and warmth and can help make a house feel more like home.

However, some of the rugs we use in our homes may be dangerous due to trip hazards. This is especially true when older adults use loose rugs, rugs that bunch up, and rugs that tend to slide as we attempt to step on them.

The safest recommendation is to get rid of all rugs. But I get it. In reality, this isn’t always feasible. So, if you or the senior you love are unwilling to get rid of rugs, there are some safer options.

Examples of Some Safer Rugs for the Elderly

If you can’t convince your loved one that a throw rug isn’t in their best interest, at least make sure that you’ve done all you can to ensure that the rugs they are using are safe.

Here are a few throw rug options for the elderly that should help to reduce the risk of falling.

This plain-colored rubber-backed rug is available in various sizes for many options. They have about eight colors to choose from, and the rug features a low pile and a rubberized backing that will help to adhere it to the floor.

Because of the ribbed texture of the carpet, seniors should be able to maintain traction easily – whether barefoot or wearing shoes.

Plus, these rugs are easy to care for, and all it takes is a good weekly vacuum with your lightweight vacuum cleaner to maintain the rug’s integrity.

If you need to wash this rug, it’s hand wash or spot clean. This rug is not machine washable, unfortunately.

This is a more medical-grade item that is primarily designed for fall protection. Because of this, it is a bit more pricey than the above-mentioned rug. However, it’s very cushiony and easy to care for.

The outer edges are beveled, which makes the edges less likely to be a trip hazard. This is an ideal choice if your loved one is in a wheelchair or uses a walking aid.

Made of high-density molded foam, this rug offers plenty of cushiony softness and is easy to care for. To clean it, just give it a good wipe-down.

While this option isn’t technically a rug, you can use products like this to look for one. These tiles are roughly 24″ square with a rubber backing with a built-in adhesive. Remove the protective plastic barrier and stick it where you want it. You can use multiple tiles to cover a larger area or a unique pattern.

These particular tiles are made of a dense, low pile carpet similar to a commercial type of carpeting. They are only .35 inches thick, including the rubber backing. Made of polyester with Scotchguard(tm) coating, they are easy to clean and care for.

The adhesive keeps the tiles from moving on the floor but is also reusable, so the tiles can be pulled up and moved if needed. Just be careful what type of flooring you stick this onto, just in case it creates any damage.

This option is what most people think of when they think of a throw rug or scatter rug. But this one is a safer option for older adults because it also doubles as a non-skid mat that works to prevent slips and falls.

It comes in 7 size options ranging from small entry rugs to room-size rugs. You also get eight colors to choose from. It could also be used in a bathroom (try to keep it dry, though!) and in front of a favorite chair or other location.

It’s affordably priced, has a low, dense pile, and has a pretty latticework design that is pretty neutral and most people would like.

This supportive memory foam rug helps relieve many foot, knee, and back pains by cushioning aging joints while offering rebounding memory foam support.

It offers both comfort and quality, and the beveled edge makes it an ideal solution for those who use a walker or wheelchair or have bad foot clearance. This rug is very reasonably priced and feels good on the feet.

Always Use a Rug Gripper with Jute Backed Rugs

If you have a rug that is maybe sentimental or the senior refuses to remove it for other reasons, try using a rug gripper between the rug and the main floor.

A rug gripper is designed to be placed underneath a throw rug and help to adhere the rug to the floor. Note that there are different ones for each flooring surface type.

Whether used on a hardwood floor, vinyl floor, or shorter-pile carpeting, many have found that a rug gripper can help keep the throw rug secured to the regular flooring.

You should use one with any rug that doesn’t have a built-in rubber backing. They come in various sizes and can be trimmed to fit any rug. Get the full-sized pads – don’t only use the ones attached to the corners.

Rug grippers also serve as rug pads, so there is no need for an expensive rug pad when using a good-quality rug gripper.

Bad Alternatives to Rug Grippers

Many seniors are rather innovative and will already have a means in place to secure a rug to the floor. Many seniors have successfully used these ideas to help keep a rug in place.

Not all ideas will work well, but some are rather clever.

  • Silicone – simply use some silicone in a tube directly to the floor where the rug will be placed. Then, place the rug over the silicone.
  • Duct Tape isn’t overly attractive, but if you use the double-sided type, it can help to secure a loose edge on a rug.
  • Carpet Tape works by securing the edges of a carpet to the floor. However, for room-sized rugs, this may not be a good option.
  • Hook and Loop Fasteners – If you’re placing a throw rug on another carpet, a good layer of hook and loop may work for smaller-sized rugs but not large ones.

While these options aren’t highly recommended, they may offer a brief stop-gap solution while negotiating with your loved one regarding the safety of their throw rugs.

What Types of Rugs Are Safer for Seniors?

While no rug is perfectly safe for elderly people with mobility issues, some choices can reduce the chance of a rug contributing to a fall.

  1. Rug with Thin Profiles – Look for a rug with a thin overall profile – not more than a 1/4 inch overall. This is extremely important for seniors with shuffling gaits or who tend to scoot their feet along the floor rather than lifting them.
  2. Low Pile Rugs – If you choose a rug with carpet fibers, select one with a looped, low, dense pile. This style will reduce the chance of a trip while stabilizing the feet. Thick, plush carpets are unstable enough for some older folks and can lead to losing balance.
  3. Choose a Dense Material – Look at the density of the rug, meaning how “tight” the fibers or materials are. They want one that is firm, not comfy. You want a carpet that supports balance, not letting the feet sink into it.
  4. Non-Slip Backing – You should ensure the rug is secured to the floor safely to prevent it from moving. You’ll often find non-slip rugs with rubber backings that keep them from scooting along the floor when someone walks on them.
  5. Get A Heavy Rug – Many rugs are also lightweight – especially when buying thinner profiled rugs. This problem is because they don’t have enough weight to hold them in place. Light rugs are more likely to move and slide when walked on.
  6. Add A Rug Gripper – If you have an existing rug you think might be okay but want to reduce the chance of slipping, consider a rug gripper or pad. These are unique mats designed to go between the floor and the rug to keep it from moving. I cover these in more detail a little later in the article.

Generally, the following styles of rugs are the ones you should be considering:

  • Rubber-backed kitchen rugs are available at many retailers and are familiar to most people. Many design and style options are also available. Ensure the rug is heavy enough to not scoot along the floor when someone walks on it.
  • Anti-Fatigue Mats – This style is used frequently in offices or where people often stand. They offer a bit of cushioning to comfort the feet but also support the legs and feet. There will be fewer design choices with this type.
  • Fall Mats – These are a special type of rug/mat designed to provide some cushioning in the event of a fall. But they do have a place in your fall prevention program. I have a guide dedicated to fall protection mats that you can read for more specifics.

Choosing the Right Thickness for a Rug Pad or Gripper

When selecting a rug pad or rug gripper, choosing one as thin as possible is important. While everyone wants a cushiony, comfortable rug, having one thick is not always practical.

Thick rugs can create trip hazards, catch wheels or oxygen hoses and cause an older adult to fall. Many older people aren’t able to lift their feet very high and will walk with a shuffle.

For this reason, it’s important to select a rug pad or gripper that isn’t too high so that a person is less likely to catch something on the edge of a rug.

Always ensure that the depth of the rug pad or gripper is as thin as possible to avoid this.

Ideally, throw rugs should be avoided when at all possible. However, most seniors want something to cushion their feet and make them feel comfortable. These rugs offer both comfort and practicality without breaking the bank.

Always choose an anti-skid rug and use rug grippers when needed to ensure the safety of your loved one.

Avoid rugs that bunch or slide, and make sure that you check the rugs regularly to ensure that they stay safe for your loved one.

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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

Learn More Email

3 thoughts on “Choosing a Safer Rug for Your Elderly Loved One”

  1. 1) question: Foot drop – suggestion for shoe designed best to avoid tripping resulting from foot drop ??
    2) suggestion: I’ve found painted floor mats ideas to avoid tripping


    • Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP

      Hi KB – thanks for the suggestions. I’ll look into some options for foot drop and include that in a future post. I have been researching how colors can help people distinguish between two different surfaces – especially the color red with dementia patients. Interesting stuff! It is especially helpful in the bathroom as a fall reduction technique. – Scott

    • Abby Bizzett Johnson

      Examples of painted floor rugs and where do they specialize?

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