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Make Home Safer: Easy Ways to Prevent Common Senior Accidents

Should you be concerned about at-home senior injuries?

According to the CDC, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries every year. Less than half of seniors report their falls to their doctors.

The effects of a bad fall or home accident can be devastating. Twenty-five percent of senior falls cause injury to more than one part of the body (compared to an average sixteen percent among other age groups). Accidents can cause broken bones or head injuries. One in five falls among women aged 55 and over requires hospital treatment.

Although most falls do not result in a serious injury, being unable to get back up can cause pressure sores and hypothermia while they’re stuck in one place waiting for help.

Besides, the senior can become afraid of falling again. This fear may cause your loved one to cut down on their everyday activities, causing themselves to become weaker and increasing their chances of getting injured.

The good news is that you can easily prevent the most common senior home accidents by making small changes to your elderly loved one’s home environment.

“After my mom fell and broke her wrist, I took the time to declutter her home. Now she feels much safer, and I’m calmer knowing there is less of a chance she’ll fall again.”

Who is most at risk for home accidents?

Most at-home senior accidents are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a senior has, the greater their chances of getting injured at home. The main risk factors for getting injured at home include:

● Lower body weakness

● Difficulties with walking and balance

● Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants (some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet)

● Vision problems

● Foot pain

● Poor footwear

● Home hazards or dangers

● Vitamin D deficiency

● Calcium deficiency

● A history of previous falls

The 9 Most Common (and Avoidable) Senior Home Accidents

The following nine injury types are most common for seniors living at home:

1. Falls 2. Burns 3. Choking 4. Medication overdose or improper medication 5. Bedsores 6. Infections 7. Lacerations 8. Sprains 9. Joint dislocation

Make Your Senior’s Home Environment Safer in 5 Minutes

You can make a home safer for older adults in as little as five minutes. Here are some ways you can make your elderly loved one’s home safer and help them navigate their homes with confidence:

Kitchen:

● Install induction stoves (rather than gas or electric)

● Purchase a one-cup boiler

● Install a stove with an automatic shut off

● Purchase a cooktop fire-suppressor and quickly install it using magnets

● Purchase a jar opener and safety can opener

● Place the things they use most often on the lower shelves (about waist high)

● Label containers and storage areas clearly

Sitting Room/Lounge:

● Remove tripping hazards such as rugs, clutter, or electric cables

● Check if the senior and their walker/wheelchair can easily navigate the room (if not, rearrange the furniture to allow easy navigation)

● Purchase a chair raiser

● Replace carpet with cushioned non-slip flooring

Bedroom:

● Use risers to increase the height of the bed

● Ensure drawer handles offer easy access

● Place an easy-to-reach lamp close to the bed

● Light the path from their bed to the bathroom (ideally with two-way switches that glow in the dark)

“We placed lightbulbs along the path from my dad’s bed to the bathroom. He says it’s the best gift we’ve ever given him!”

Bathroom:

● Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet (if there are grab bars already, make sure they are tight and in good condition)

● Install a higher toilet seat

● Put down non-slip mats with anti-skid backing (or replace the bathroom tiles with a non-slip surface)

● Install walk-in showers and baths

Stairs:

● Remove items lying on the stairs

● Ensure there are no upturned carpet edges

● Put railings on both sides of stairs (or tighten existing railings)

● Repair or remove damaged or worn carpet

● Repair uneven steps or broken steps

● Look at stairlift options

Floors:

● Get rid of things they could trip over (upturned carpet edges, clutter, electric cables, etc)

● Avoid repetitive carpet patterns (they may produce optical illusions)

In General:

● Make thresholds between rooms easy to walk over by installing anti-slip ramps

● Light their home with more or brighter light bulbs (ideally with lighting that simulates daylight because it’s most effective and can improve moods)

● Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home

“I’m amazed at the difference a few small changes could make! We put my grandmother’s microwave on the counter, and bought her a walker with a tray so she can bring her food to the table. It’s much safer and it gives her more independence.”

Simple Changes A Senior Can Make to Avoid Accidents

In order to prevent injuries, your elderly loved one should:

● Wear well-fitting footwear

● Get out of bed and chairs slowly so as not to become dizzy

● Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medicines to see if any might make them dizzy or sleepy ● Ask their doctor about taking vitamin D supplements

● Exercise to make their lower body stronger and improve balance

● Avoid leaving items lying around on the floor or stairs

● Have a ‘grabber’ that helps pick things up off the floor without having to bend down

● Clean up spills immediately to prevent slipping on them

● Keep two walking sticks, one at the top of the stairs and another at the bottom

● Use the microwave to cook or heat food more rather than the oven or stove (if the microwave is easily accessible)

● Learn what to do if they have a fall or other accident

● Do not dry clothes on heaters

● Clean lint from the clothes dryer once a month (or ask a friend or family member to do it for them)

● Turn the cold water on first when filling the bathtub

● Use the rear burners when cooking on the stove top, and turn the panhandles away from the front of the cooker

“Last year my dad fell while trying to pick up a sweater from the floor. We bought him a new ‘grabber’ and he uses it all the time now! He can pick things up easily without fear of falling.”

“My great aunt insisted on frying her own food. It used to be okay, but her arthritis was getting worse and making it harder for her to do things with her hands. When she got a small burn we spoke to her gently about the risks. Now she uses an air-fryer and loves the health benefits, too!”

Make Your Senior’s Home Safer Today

You can implement the above tips today to make your senior loved one’s home as safe as possible. If you’re looking for a caregiver or professional to help your elderly loved one navigate their home as safely as possible, contact Jethro Health System at 781-215-6125 or contact us through our site.

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WRITTEN BY
Hendrik Morella
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May 2024
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