Our population is aging. Baby boomers are now active and vital senior citizens. The generation is choosing to age at home. This means that seniors are staying home for longer than ever before. While aging in the home is a beautiful experience for families, it’s also fraught with hazards to those who aren’t as spry as they once were.
Senior Citizens and the Danger of Falling
What sends emergency sends more senior citizens to the hospital each year? I bet you’re guessing heart attacks. However, falling is the single most prevalent cause of emergency visits by senior citizens each year. Heart attacks are, in fact, number two! That fact is surprising to most people. As we age, our bodies change. Muscles weaken, arthritis sets in, and we lose stability. In addition, we become less capable of catching ourselves to prevent a fall.
Senior citizens often overestimate their actual capabilities. They don’t want to deal with aging or being unable to complete the chores they used to do. In fact, they are often scared to reach out for help. This is often because they fear that if they become burdensome to their children, they will be pressured to move into a care facility. Therefore, they ignore the weakened muscles and continue to attempt to tackle chores that are dangerous. The result of all of this can be a tragic fall. Falls are traumatic to seniors. First, their bodies don’t heal as quickly as they once used to. Second, falls can cause complications that can lead to serious infections, blood clots, illness, and even death. Therefore, anything you can do to help keep your aging friends safe from falling is of the utmost importance.
Here are the top 3 in-home hazards for senior citizens.
Top 3 Causes of Falling for Seniors
The three primary causes of falls for seniors are tripping, climbing, and slipping. We’ll take a look at each and share some solutions to minimize the risks.
Indoors or outdoors, senior citizens need to have stable and even surfaces for walking. Tripping and falling is the main source of falls inside the home for this population. Even if your loved one is steady on her feet right now, begin to look into ways to accommodate her in the future. For in the future, she may need the assistance of a cane or rolling walker. If you address these needs now, you’ll be well prepared for the future. Here are a few tips to help.
Patio blocks/Driveway: Loose materials can roll under the foot and cause falls. In icy weather, this becomes even more imperative to address. Make sure the patio and driveway don’t have loose blocks or stones. If they do, replace them with a better surface before it causes a fall.
Decorative Rugs: Loose decorative rugs and throw rugs can catch the tip of the toe and call tumbles. You can deal with these by taping them down using a double-sided carpet tape if your senior is still fairly nimble. For those less sure on their feet, remove these hazards altogether.
Electrical Cords: Many seniors reside in older homes with fewer electrical outlets. As a result, they liberally splay extension cords throughout their rooms to make their modern technologies work better. This creates a definite safety issue. Make sure extension cords are safely tucked behind furniture. Better yet, hire an electrician to add a much-needed outlet or two.
Seniors also fall frequently from trying to climb ladders, step stools, and chairs to reach things that they need or to complete routine chores. For an older person, the simple act of dusting the blades of a ceiling fan can result in a tragic accident. While there may be times that climbing is unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to minimize the need to do so.
In the Kitchen: In the kitchen, seniors should keep their day to day items on lower shelves and less-used treasures at the top. For example, help the senior move her everyday dishware to the bottom shelf and stash her favorite ceramic Christmas cookie tray on the top shelf. When it’s time to change out seasonal accessories, pay her a visit and help her switch her items around according to need.
Closets: Reaching to the top shelf of the closet can cause injury both from a fall hazard and by items tumbling down on the senior. Help them clear closets of excessive items that they’ve accumulated over the years. Hold a yard sale to help them earn a little extra cash as they clear the space.
Outdoors: Seniors who were once active in maintaining their home often try to climb ladders to do minor home repairs, inspect the roof, or clean the gutters. Look for creative solutions to scale back on home maintenance. For example, you can eliminate the need to clean the gutters. Consider a GutterBrush to keep the gutters free of debris. Or, you can hire a handyman to inspect the roof or do those home repairs.
Slips can happen even to the most sure-footed young person when the conditions are right. Young people bounce up from the slip and laugh it off. On the other hand, slipping can spell disaster for a senior citizen. Here are some tips to help eliminate slips.
In the bathtub: Remove the old bathtub and replace it with a walk-in shower. Install a shower chair so the senior can securely sit down as he bathes. Also, install grip tape to the bottom of the bathtub to give his feet some grip as he gets in and out of the shower.
In the bathroom: Add grab handles to near the bathing area and the commode. This will help the senior keep steady on a moist flooring surface.
In the kitchen: Replace slippery, worn tiles with a less slippery flooring material if possible. There are new slip-resistant vinyl floor products made from recycled materials. You’ll protect your senior and help the environment at the same time. At the very least, apply a skid-resistant coating to the floors as an afternoon project. Once this dries, it makes floors have just a little bit of grip.
Outdoors: Stairways to the porch or deck can get slippery on rainy or snowy days. Keep seniors on a safe surface by applying grip tape to outdoor stairs. This will let their shoe grip as they use those steps. In poor weather, is there a neighbor who can help? A neighborhood kid would probably love to earn $5 a week collecting a senior’s mail and bringing it to the door or shoveling off those steps.
Make It Safe!
At the end of the day, we need to help seniors keep safe. They are making that decision to stay home. That’s a wonderful option, but it’s up to us to help keep seniors safe and prevent falls.