Home Safety Checklist for Older Adults
Falls over the age of 65
Falls in the home are the leading cause of injury and decreased quality of life among older adults.
One out of four Americans aged 65+ will experience a fall this year. Of these, one of every five falls will result in serious injury, such as damage to the brain, hip and wrist fracture. These injuries can greatly decrease quality of life and length of independent living. For the majority of older adults who do not experience any visible injury as a result of the fall, an equally challenging scenario occurs.
"Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker and this increases their chances of falling." - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Three million older adults are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year. 300,000 of these older adults will be treated for a hip fracture. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways. In 2015, total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.10 Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs (CDC).
Once an older adult experiences a fall, the chances that they will experience another fall is doubled.
Unfortunately, as reported by the CDC, only half of these falls are reported to a physician, caregiver or family member. Whether you are an older adult, caregiver, adult child, family member or friend of an older adult, there are many reasons to educate yourself on fall risks in the home.
"Because the natural aging process can affect vision, strength and balance, adults 65 and older are at elevated risk for falls, however falls are not a natural part of aging and can be prevented." -National Safety Council
While these are startling statistics, there are many things you can do to reduce fall risks and increase safety for yourself and your loved ones. Keeping a safe home is the most important factor in reducing fall risks and ensuring long-lasting independent living. We're going to look at some of the most frequent fall risks that can be easily eliminated and potentially save a life. There are some simple safety precautions that will help to ensure the best possible quality of life and extended independent living for older adults.
Falls in the Home
The National Council on Aging reports falls to be the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
In 2002, as reported by the CDC, 1.6 million people over the age of 65 were treated in emergency departments of healthcare centers in America. The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
"Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans. In 2014 alone, older Americans experienced 29 million falls causing seven million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)."-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
As the average age of Americans increases, so do the risks for falls in the home, as the home is often where older adults spend the majority of their time. Over 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day, and as the average lifespan increases, so does the number of fall-related injuries and deaths.
However, you have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from falls in the home. With a few simple steps and a checklist for precautions, we're going to review some of the most important tasks to safeguard your home or the home of a loved one.
Home Safety Checklist
Answer each of the following questions regarding risks in the home.
If you select "yes," be sure to take the steps we provide in order to minimize the risk of a fall.
In the few minutes it takes to clear a fall risk from the home, you can add years of independent living to your life as an older adult.
Home Safety: Floors
Do you have to walk around furniture or other items when walking through rooms?
Great. Be sure to keep all paths in the home clear of any furniture or belongings.
Ask a caregiver, friend or neighbor to help you move any furniture or belongings that are in your path.
You should be able to walk comfortably through the rooms in your home without needing to walk around furniture.
Do you have decorative rugs on the floor?
Great. Be sure to keep all floors clear of fall hazards, such as rugs that are not secured with double-sided tape.
Either remove the rugs completely or ask for help to secure them to the floor with double sided tape or a non-slip backing.
Throw and decorative rugs can easily slip and are therefore a common safety risk in the home.
Any rugs that you would like to keep on the floor should be secured to the flooring with double-sided tape to ensure that they do not slip.
Are there books, towels, boxes, blankets or other objects on the floor?
Great. Be sure to keep all floors clear of fall hazards, such as books, luggage, paperwork, boxes, etc.
Remove all objects from the floor.
If items are heavy, ask a caregiver, friend or neighbor to help you move the items off the floor.
Always keep objects off the floor, as they are a risk for falls.
Are there wires or cords that you have to walk over on the floor (i.e. lamps, telephones, surge protectors)?
Great. Be sure to keep all floors clear of fall hazards, including cords, wires and cords.
Remove all cords and wires from the floor.
Fasten wires and cords to the wall to ensure you do not trip on them.
If necessary, have an electrician put another outlet in the wall.
Home Safety: Stairs
Are there any belongings on inside or outdoor staircases that could cause you to trip and experience a fall? (This includes stacks of paper, books, shoes, boxes and any other objects.)
Great. Keep the staircases located both outside and inside clear of any objects that don't belong there.
Stairs can be a common place for clutter to build up and create a safety risk for falls.
Remove any objects on staircases both inside and outside the home.
Ask a caregiver, friend or neighbor to help you move any heavier items.
Stairs can be one of the most dangerous places to experience a fall, particularly for older adults.
In an emergency, you can press the Emergency Button to reach a MobileHelp Emergency Operator and request assistance.
Are there any structural problems, such as loose or uneven steps, on indoor or outdoor staircases?
Great. Defects in the construction of your stairs can be a fall risk.
Make sure all indoor and outdoor steps are solidly built, level and do not require repair.
Fix loose or uneven steps as quickly as possible.
If necessary, hire a professional that can help to ensure all staircases used inside and outside the home are safe and level.
Is there a light above each stairway in your home?
Unlit staircases are a safety hazard.
To reduce the risk of falling in your home, have a light installed at the top and bottom of each staircase.
There should be a light at the top and bottom of every staircase in your home.
Do you have only one light switch for a stairway, either at the top or bottom of stairs?
Contact an electrician to install light switches at the top and bottom of each staircase.
Opt for light switches that glow to ensure you never fumble around in the dark searching for the switch.
Keep all stairways well-lit and accessible from the top and bottom with light switches in both locations.
Is there frayed carpet in any stairway of your home?
Carpet should be firmly attached to every step.
If there is torn carpet in your staircase, firmly attach it to the stairs.
Be sure that every step is free of safety hazards that can cause trips and falls, such as frayed carpet.
If the carpet is frayed beyond repair, consider removing it completely.
When carpet is removed, attach non-slip rubber treads to the stairs.
Are there any loose or broken handrails in the stairways of your home?
Loose or broken handrails are a safety risk.
Maintain all handrails in the stairways of your home to ensure safety.
Broken or loose handrails must be repaired or removed from stairways.
Contact a carpenter to install handrails on both sides of the stairs in each stairway within the home.
All stairways in the home should be well lit, with handrails that are as long as the stairs.
Home Safety: Kitchen
Are there any items that you use often on high shelves?
Keep items in the lower shelves of your cabinet, at waist level.
Move any items that are far from each to the lower shelves of your cabinet.
Keep often-used items on the lower shelves, at waist level.
Do you have a sturdy step stool?
Get a step stool with a bar to hold and stabilize yourself with.
Never use a chair as a step stool.
Every home should have a sturdy step stool.
Be sure to use a step stool that has a bar to hold on to.
Never use a chair as a step stool.
Home Safety: Bathrooms
Does every bathroom in your home have non-slip rubber mats in the tub or shower floor?
Slippery floors in the bathroom are a fall risk.
Put a non-slip rubber mat or install self-stick strips on the floor of every tub or shower.
If you are unable to install non-slip mats or strips yourself, ask a caregiver, friend or neighbor for help.
Every tub or shower in your home should have a non-slip rubber mat or self-stick strips.
Do you experience any trouble while getting out of the tub or up from the toilet in your bathroom?
To keep your home safe and minimize fall risk, have a carpenter install grab bars next to the toilet and inside the tub.
If you do experience trouble or need support getting in and out of the shower, tub or toilet, grab bars will reduce the risk of fall.
Every tub, shower and toilet in your home should have grab bars that are within reach.
Home Safety: Bedrooms
Is there a light that is within reach of the bed in every room?
Be sure to have a lamp with a working lightbulb placed near the bed in every room.
A working lamp or light switch should be within reach of every bed in your home.
Working lamps or light switches should be within reach from the bed in every room.
Is there a well-lit path from your bed to the bathroom?
Put a night-light or lamp in any dark hallways.
The path from your bedroom to the bathroom should be well lit and free of clutter.
There are night-lights available that will light up themselves after dark.
The path from your bed to your bathroom should be well lit and free of clutter.
Home Safety Tips
Consider each of the following actions you can take to safeguard your home. These tips can help you to prevent falls.
Exercise regularly. A few minutes each day of activity can help to improve balance and coordination, which will reduce your risk of falling.
See your primary care physician or a pharmacist you trust to review all of the medications you take. There are medications that can make you sleepy, dizzy or despondent. Be sure to know what medication affect your balance and take the proper steps to avoid falls.
"Older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that cause dizziness, especially a sense of imbalance. They're also more likely to take medications that can cause dizziness." - MayoClinic
Have your vision checked by an Optometrist at least once every year. Poor vision is a fall risk that can easily be eliminated.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults ages 65 and older fall each year in the United States. People with vision loss are almost twice as likely to experience multiple falls as those with normal vision." - VisionAware
Always take care to get up slowly and carefully after you sit or lie down.
"Muscle weakness, joint problems, pain, disease, and neurological (brain and nervous system) difficulties-common conditions in older people-can all contribute to mobility problems. Sometimes several mild problems occur at one time and combine to seriously affect mobility." - HealthinAging.com
Avoid slippers and going barefoot, as this can increase fall risk. Wear shoes when you are both inside and outside of the home.
"Foot and ankle exercises, foot orthoses and particularly, wearing appropriate footwear are all key to preventing falls." - MyAgingParent.com
Make sure that the lighting in your home is bright in every room. Florescent bulbs are bright and more affordable than other options.
"The National Institute on Aging recommends that people with low vision change the type of lighting they use. Let us be a little more specific for you.
Older eyes need more light, especially for distinguishing fine details. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) has found that people who are 65 and older need four times the amount of light that individuals who are 25 years old and younger." - PegasusLighting.com
Reduce the glare from all windows within your home. Be sure to hang lightweight curtains or install shades that will reduce any glare and minimize safety risks.
"Lighting that is too bright can create its own problems. Sunlight is often the culprit in this situation, but so can lamps that create a glare. A room that is too bright can prevent you from properly assessing hazards in the room, and bright lights may also trigger lightheadedness that leads to a loss of balance." - Aging.com
Consider decorative details that will enhance your vision and reduce fall risks.
"Paint a contrasting color on the top edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better. For example, use a light color paint on dark wood." - National Center for Disease Control
Other Safety Tips
Consider each of the following steps you can take to ensure your safety and improve your quality of life as an older adult.
Wear a medical alert device that will send help to you if you fall and can't get up.
MobileHelp is an FDA-registered company with 100% US-based Customer Care, Support and Emergency Monitoring. MobileHelp medical alert systems do not require a landline and keep you protected 24/7, at home and away. Click here to browse MobileHelp medical alert systems.
List your emergency contacts in large print and keep the sheet close to every phone in your home.
If an emergency were to arise, you want to be sure that whoever comes to help you is able to contact your family, doctors, caregivers, etc.