Caring for Elderly Parents at Home:
Safety Tips for Families
Considering fall safety and safe-proofing your elderly parents’ home should be the priority you think of when beginning the process of aging with your parents. In fact, if your elderly parent makes frequent visits to your home, you should consider safe-proofing your own house as well.
Falls are very important to prevent. With the elderly, falls are the leading cause of injury-related visits to emergency departments. More than 90% of hip fractures are associated with fall-related injuries and most of these fractures occur in persons over the age of seventy. Furthermore, seniors who fall are ten times more likely to be hospitalized, and eight times more likely to die as a result of a fall.
Environmental hazards are implicated in 33-50% of falls. This is an important fact because these are easily preventable. Major hazards in the home are clutter, electrical cords in pathways, inadequate lighting that can lead to tripping, slippery throw rugs, low chairs, soft chairs, and uneven surfaces.
There is no specific time of day that most falls happen but most falls occur indoors, usually in the bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen.
Statistics on the Importance of Safety for an elderly parent or loved one:
- The risk of falling increases with age and is greater for women than men.
- Annually, falls are reported by one-third of all people 65 and older.
- Two-thirds of those who fall will fall again within six months.
- Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 or over.
- Over 9,500 deaths of senior Americans are caused by falls each year.
- Elderly people account for 75% of all deaths happening from falls.
- More 50% of all fatalities from falls happen to people over 75, even though they are only 4% of the total U.S. population.
- Among seniors between 65 to 69, 1 out of every 200 accidental falls cause hip fractures, but among those over 85, this number multiplies to 1 in 10 falls result in hip fractures.
- One-fourth of those who fracture a hip die within six months of the injury.
In addition to having a professional provide an assessment to measure the likeliness of such a fall, there are some useful steps you can take to increase safety in your parents’ home and assure your own house is safe for when they visit. Here are some primary hazards you should consider:
- Remove throw rugs
- Secure carpet edges are not sticking up
- Remove objects on the floor
- Remove furniture with edges that stick out
- Reduce clutter on the floor and in closets
- Remove cords and wires on the floor
- Check lighting for adequate illumination at night
- Pick up items that are lying around such as papers, magazines, books, and shoes
- Assure that all step stools are steady
- Eliminate chairs that are too low to sit on comfortably and could lead to a fall
- Install grab bars in the bathtub or shower
- Install grab bars by the toilet
- Use rubber mats in the bathtub or shower
- Pick up and remove floor mats when the bathtub or shower is not in use
- Install a raised toilet seat
Stairs and steps
- Secure carpet or treads on the staircase
- Pick up items placed on the staircase
- Fix loose or uneven steps
- Make sure to install handrails are on both sides of the staircase
- Repair cracks in steps and driveway leading to the home
- Install handrails on steps leading to the home
- Trim shrubbery along the pathway to home
- Install adequate lighting by doorways and walkways for night time hours
- Ensure there is a light switch that can be reached from the bed
- Install adequate lighting
Additional Safety Tips
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone
- Put a phone and emergency numbers near the floor in case your parent falls and can’t get up
- If there is a significant risk for a fall, think of arranging for an emergency alarm device for your parent to wear at all times
Below are the top THREE REASONS why seniors fall. There are simple steps that you can take to help decrease the risk of your elderly parent falling!
1. Loose rugs are your enemy: Remove ALL loose rugs in the household. Regardless of the sentimental value that your mom might perceive of the rug “completing the room,” indeed, rugs are your enemy.
2. Grab Bars are your friend: I cannot tell you the number of times clients will say that they do not need a grab-bar because they use the toilet paper holder or the plastic shower door to help support their weight. Not only are these items not designed to support twenty pounds, but they also are not designed to support the weight of an adult! This is incredibly dangerous and installing grab bars is a relatively cheap and easy fix to this problem
3. Keep a properly lit home: One Alvita Care client was so cost-conscience that she would not turn on any lights and instead used the flashlight on her walker. This is incredibly dangerous and an example of how cost savings can result in very expensive results such as a fall. Making sure that all the lights are on and can be controlled from various light switches will be helpful in keeping the entire home is properly lit.
At Alvita Home Care, we use a fall assessment tool to help aid families in the identification of their elderly parent’s risk of falling. Our Alvita Care geriatric specialists work with elders and families in New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, and northern New Jersey. Contacting us can be a helpful first step in planning for the future well-being and safety of your elderly loved one.
Links to services that our caregivers supplement senior home care with:
Activities of Daily Living
– Elderly Incontinence
– Organizing Tips for Homes with Elderly Parents
– Safety for Elderly Parents at Home
Respite & Relief Care
– How to Show your Caregiver that You Care
– Finding the Fun in Aging