Our ability to move around safely at home can change after a new diagnosis or surgery, as we age, or when we’re taking certain medications. As a caregiver, you can help to spot potential tripping hazards or identify ways to make using the bathroom safer and easier for the person you’re caring for.
But where do you start? Use this guide as you walk around the home or living space of the person you care for. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older folks, so It’s worth the time to make sure the living space is safe.
- If it’s not safe to use the stairs, relocate bedding and any other must-haves so that they can be reached without the use of stairs. Make a plan for retrieving mail or newspapers if that also requires the use of stairs.
- Store assistive devices like canes and walkers so they are easily accessible but are not a tripping hazard. You may need to request an assistive device when you get home and discover that it’s not safe to move around without help. Talk to your care team - it’s important to prevent falls, and they will want to help you with this.
- Make sure that your furry friends like dogs and cats are safely out of the way, as they can accidentally trip you. Consider keeping them out of certain areas during recovery.
- Remove tripping hazards like area rugs, boxes, low tables, cords and cables, or other items on the floor from walkways.
- Have a bathroom and shower plan: you may need to add railings or a hand held shower head and chair before the person you’re caring for can safely navigate by themselves.
- Check and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and identify what needs repair and who will manage the repair.
- Check that your assistive devices (such as brakes on wheelchairs or walkers) are fully functional. Do not use the device if not working properly.
- Identify any stairs or walkways in need of repair and avoid use until safely repaired.
- Position high use items in close proximity (arm’s reach) to the person receiving care. Examples of such items include phones, important contact information, notes or reminders, medications, remotes, beverages, assistive devices.
- Wear sturdy, flat, slip resistant shoes indoors and outdoors.
- Wear well fitted pants to avoid tripping.
- Avoid loose shirts when cooking.
- Keep walkways clear by removing clutter.
- Add and use sturdy railings on stairs.
- Remove low-to-the-ground furniture that can be tripped over, such as ottomans or coffee tables.
- Ensure adequate lighting. Add new lighting fixtures where needed, and change out old bulbs.
- Keep the path clear to and from the bathroom. Use a bedside commode if prescribed or needed.
- Shower safely by using a mat and/ or sturdy shower chair.
- Use grip bars when bathing.
CDC - Deaths from Older Adult Falls