Contributed by Dawn Allcot
If your parents are older and still living independently, you can’t be there for them around the clock. However, the burden still falls on you, as the adult child, to ensure your parents’ safety when they are alone. A caregiver is still a caregiver even if they don’t have to watch their parents 24/7. Reducing the fall risk in your parents’ home can help ensure they will be able to live independently while restoring your peace of mind as a child and caregiver.
The Danger of Falls
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both non-fatal and fatal injuries, including traumatic brain injury and debilitating hip injuries, in seniors over the age of 65. By taking a few hours over the weekend, you can reduce the fall risk at your parents’ house by taking a few simple measures.
Reduce the Fall Risk Outside Your Parents’ Door
Reducing the fall risk at your parents’ house begins at the path to their front door. Examine the sidewalk in front of their house, the walkway and the front steps.
– Are there cracks in the pavement that could cause your parent to trip?
– Are the stairs solid and sturdy, or broken and cracking?
– Do the stairs have a handrail? Is it in good condition, or wobbling?
– Is the path and entry way well-lit?
– Do shrubs and bushes obscure the path, making it difficult to navigate?
Most of these issues have easy fixes, whether it means calling a contractor or handyman to fix the steps, changing an outdoor light bulb, or trimming shrubs yourself.
Take note: In some cities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their house and could also be liable if someone injures themselves on the sidewalk. This is an additional reason to ensure the sidewalk in front of your parents’ home is safe.
Reducing the Fall Risk in the Home
One-third to one-half of all falls take place within the home, according to CDC statistics. Here are steps you can take steps to ensure your parents’ safety and reduce the fall risk within their home.
Clear clutter – Start by going room by room to clear any obvious clutter. Are pathways wide and intuitive? A coffee table in an awkward spot could be a fall risk, as can storage baskets, boxes, stacks of newspaper or magazines, and miscellaneous items like shoes. Make sure every item has a proper place situated out of the natural traffic paths of the home.
Evaluate lighting – Next, pay attention to the lighting. Are hallways and staircases well-lit? Consider occupancy sensors or a home automation system that will turn lights on at certain times of day, so your parent won’t trip if they come home late in the evening or walk to the bathroom late at night. You might also consider long-lasting battery powered LED lights in areas that require more light. If your loved one suffers from cataracts or poor vision, they may need lights to be brighter than usual.
Here are some more quick and easy ways you can reduce the fall risk in your parents’ home:
– Put non-skid backing on all throw rugs.
– Use double-sided tape to secure area rugs.
– Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilets.
– Make sure power cords do not run across the floor. Use cord management to secure power cords against the wall, or consider replacing floor and table lamps with in-ceiling LED lighting.
More Tips to Reduce the Fall Risk
Reducing your parents’ fall risk begins in their home, but it extends to their daily activities. Getting enough Vitamin D, exercising regularly, and making sure eyeglass prescriptions are up to date can all help reduce a seniors’ fall risk. For more information, please read our Guest Blog Post about how to prevent falls and the negative cascading effects they can have on your loved ones’ quality of life.