In Florida alone, we have more than 5.5 million seniors, and the vast majority of them want to live at home for as long as they possibly can.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest risks our seniors face is falling. One out of every four older adults will fall each year in the United States. A staggering 30 million older adults fall each year – resulting in about 30,000 deaths. Three million older adults are treated for a fall injury in an average year.
In many cases, these seniors are falling in a home they have lived in for years or decades. With balance issues more common as we age, a home that they have always felt safe in may become a potential hazard in later years.
However, here’s the good news. There are a number of things that have been shown to protect senior family members in their own homes.
First, and most important thing to do, is remove fall hazards. That starts with area rugs. They may look pretty, but they are the most common culprit when it comes to seniors falling.
Next, clean up and remove any piled-up clutter, including newspapers, magazines, clothes and shoes. Remove or donate old or weak furniture. Your senior family members may try to use them for support, and they may not be in a condition for that.
Make the rooms roomier. A more open environment is safer. And if, they are starting to use walkers or wheelchairs, make sure there is access to move around and add stability hardware like grab bars or railings to provide support, especially where a step up or down is required.
This is especially important when it comes to the bathroom. At the very least, install secure grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet. Make sure there are reliable mats in the bathtub. You also may want to consider replacing the tub with a walk-in model. Replace the original toilet seat with a raised one.
In the bedroom, consider replacing an old sagging mattress with a firm one. This will likely be more comfortable, provide more support and make it easier to get in and out of bed. In fact, consider a vertical grab bar that goes from the floor to the ceiling. They are a great help when trying to get in and out of bed.
Other things to consider. Are there stairs, and how well can your seniors navigate them if they must? Is the kitchen safe? Is the lighting adequate for aging eyes?
All this may seem overwhelming, and you may simply want to move your senior loved ones to a place where you believe they may be safer. But remember, you need to be considering many issues as you make these decisions. The good news is there is help. There are businesses and organizations in our area that can help you assess the home and make the necessary changes.
One such business is Palm Aging Life Management, which specializes in advocating for seniors and supporting them and their families through the challenges associated with aging.
“As part of our initial assessment, we look at the home, make recommendations and work with trades people who can come in and make necessary adjustments,” said Norma Berger, a partner at Palm Aging Life Management.
The best thing you can do is have these experts like Berger assess the situation before you make any decisions. By incorporating proven ideas in your plan, you can make the environment around your senior a safer and more comfortable living space.