Homes are places of comfort and safety for the most part, but there are also inherent dangers throughout each home where risks do exist.
As people age, the likelihood of falling and being seriously injured in a fall increases due to symptoms of a chronic condition such as dizziness, medication side effects, or changes in vision. An in-home care evaluation can be one solution to identify where problems areas are and make adaptations to minimize the chances of a fall. Studies have found that someone who is living with dementia is at an increased risk for falling and being injured.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) charts falls among older adults—those who are 65 years and older—and gives advice on how to intervene to prevent these accidents. According to the CDC, “falls among adults 65 and older caused 34,000 deaths in 2019, making it the leading cause of injury death for that group.”
Of the one in four older adults who fall each year, less than half tell their doctor, the CDC found. Still, three million seniors are treated in the ER for fall injuries and one out of five falls leads to a broken bone or head injury. The CDC states that there are 800,000 patients hospitalized annually with a head injury or hop fracture.
Room by Room
The most dangerous room in a house isn’t even a room, it’s the stairs. According to Medical Guardian, a personal emergency response provider, a home with stairs has an added fall risk for seniors. The solution is ensuring there are adequate handrails for going up and down the stairs on both sides. These handrails should be secure, not wiggling when grabbed on to.
The bathroom is considered the most dangerous room in the house for seniors, based on a CDC report that found 235,000 people go to the ER each year for a fall in the bathroom and 14% of those are hospitalized. These injuries happen while bathing or showering, but also when using the toilet. Read about other surprising hazards in the bathroom here.
Grab bars can make a bathroom safer, as well as non-skid mats in the shower or tub and removing any throw rugs.
The kitchen has its own hazards, but falling isn’t the top concern in this room. Food storage and meal preparation can lead to cuts, fires, even carbon dioxide poisoning, food poisoning, and certainly if someone is using a stepladder to reach a high shelf or liquids are spilled, there is a higher chance of a fall in this room.
The living room and the bedroom can also have a high probability of falls, and for unexpected reasons: lighting and stability when standing. These are rooms where people tend to sit and lie down, but when people stand up, there can be sudden vertigo or stiffness in muscles and joints that contribute to falling down. Some solutions to make these rooms safer include remote controlled lighting (or voice controlled), removing throw rugs, clearing clutter and cords that could be tripped over.
Outside Fall Risks
The challenges for older adults can also be found outside, so don’t forget about the garden, garage, and driveways and sidewalks.
Gardening can be an excellent activity for elders who want a little exercise and time outdoors. But a sloppily placed rake or shovel can lead to a trip and subsequent fall. Another consideration is the heat, which can leave someone lightheaded enough to fall. The key here is to remain hydrated, rest often, and keep tools safely stored when not in use.
Outside walkways can be slippery, not just in winter with ice, but after the rain or watering the lawn and plants. The risk for a traumatic brain injury is real with a fall on the driveway, according to Medical Guardian, so take steps to reduce the chance of a fall in this area. For example, install motion-sensor lights, use an assistive device when walking to the car or to get the mail, put away the hoses, and keep pathways clear.
How Home Care Addresses Fall Risks
A professionally-trained caregiver knows how to look for fall risks in the home and what measures can be used to lessen the likelihood of a fall.
Complete an in-home safety evaluation of each room in the house to identify potential risk. The safety evaluation should include considerations for those who are living with dementia.
Tasks like assistance with bathing or showering, post-surgery care, and dementia care can all be part of mitigating falls as a steady hand help someone to avoid a slip.
Learn more about home care services here.