Organizing and uncluttering to prevent falls

Although most people think about older adults or young children falling, falls can happen to anyone at any time and most falls can be prevented. Across all age groups, unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the United States and the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.

It’s no surprise, as I was laying on the floor in the dark at the bottom of the stairs a few mornings ago, I thought about organising the home to prevent falls.

Here are some organisational tips to make your home safer.

Clear the Clutter

The most common cause of falls is tripping over items on the floor. The Unclutterer site is full of resources to help you reduce the clutter in your home. It is especially important for high traffic areas to be clear of clutter as well as narrow hallways and staircases.

Outdoors

  • Repair cracks and abrupt edges of sidewalks and driveways.
  • Paint the edges with brightly coloured paint to denote changes in levels.
  • Install handrails on steps and on sloped walkways and ensure they are secure.
  • Keep walk areas clear of snow and ice. Hang tools for snow and ice removal neatly near the doorway so they are easily accessible when needed.
  • Install motion sensor lighting at doorways and along walkways leading to doors.

Flooring and Stairs

  • Repair uneven walking surfaces inside the home such as uneven floorboards or wrinkled carpets.
  • Use only non-skid mats or use double-sided tape to secure rugs in place.
  • Use a change colour to denote changes in flooring surface types or levels.
  • Place non-slip strips on stairs. Apply brightly coloured paint or tape to the face of steps to make them more visible. (This is a great idea for basement and stairways in dark areas.)
  • Install handrails on all staircases and ensure they are secure.
  • Keep a basket with a handle at the top and bottom of the stairs. If you have to carry more than one item up or down the stairs, put them into the basket. This way you can still hold the handrail with one hand and carry the basket with the other. Store the basket next to the stairs, not on the stairs.

Bathroom

Lighting and Electrics

  • Place a lamp within easy reach of your bed. Also keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power is out and you need to get up.
  • Put night-lights in the bathroom, hallways, bedroom, and kitchen.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting in dark areas such as basements, attics, and garages.
  • Light switches should be installed at both ends of hallways and staircases.
  • Reduce the need for extension cords by having an electrician install more electrical outlets.
  • Secure electrical cords and telephone cables to baseboards.
  • Place phone close to bed if you expect calls while you’re sleeping or if you may need to make emergency calls.
  • Put glow-in-the-dark paint or stickers on light switches so you can see them in the dark.

Furniture

  • Rearrange furniture so it is easy to move around in the room. Ideally there should be at least a 30-inch (75cm) path for walking between pieces of furniture.
  • Repair or remove wobbly or unstable furniture.
  • Consider removing castor wheels from furniture (e.g. office chairs) or replace the furniture with the type that does not have wheels.
  • Keep a chair or stool by the door so you can sit down to put on or remove boots and shoes.

Kitchen

  • Move pet feeding dishes out of main traffic areas.
  • Reorganise the kitchen so the most often-used items are more accessible and within easy reach.
  • Keep a mop and broom handy by hanging it on the kitchen wall or in an easily accessible pantry so you can wipe up any spills immediately.

Ladders

  • Use ladders, not chairs or tables, to reach items on upper shelves. Remember to NEVER stand on chairs with wheels.
  • A safety ladder can be folded and easily hung on the wall or slid into a closet so it is always handy.
  • Get into the habit of doing a safety check on your ladder before you use it.

Footwear

  • Around the house, consider wearing footwear with non-slip soles.
  • Ensure all your shoes fit you properly. Shoes that are too big or too small can cause you to slip or trip.
  • During the winter months, be sure to wear boots with good traction. Keep a set of ice grippers in a basket at the front door so they will be easy to put on if the sidewalks are icy.

As for me, I have started putting on my non-slip footwear and turning on the light before I walk down the stairs to make breakfast in the morning.

6 Comments for “Organizing and uncluttering to prevent falls”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    So glad your fall wasn’t more serious!

    I had a near-miss yesterday. I parked at my in-laws and had to walk over an unpaved area with deep leaf litter. I still don’t know if I slipped or tripped, but I dropped my purse and wind-milled my arms wildly, just barely avoiding a bad fall.

    I try to keep the house pretty streamlined. My biggest issue seems to be my cats who appear to delight in efforts to trip me. My house is in a rural area so the it’s quite dark at night. One of my cats is mostly black and at night he’s almost invisible. I’m always VERY conscious of this and do all I can to avoid stepping on them or tripping over them.

  2. posted by andrea on

    My mother in her 70s lives alone in a three story house and i always worry about her falling (she is in great health, but, like you said, anyone can fall.)

    She actually bought a bunch of small solar lights, the type you put outside in your garden. and put them in her house plants around her house. Just the general light in the house during the day charges them, and then when it is dark, there is an low level ambient glow in the main areas. Small, cheap, and you don’t have to think about it.

  3. posted by Marie on

    We struggle with stepping on things that can injure bare feet, while also wanting to keep the house shoe-free in order to keep the floors cleaner and asthma symptoms lessened. Pet toys are the worst culprit…they just can’t be taught to put their toys away once play time is over.

  4. posted by Adele on

    Great suggestions!

    One thing I’ve noticed is that many of us slow down and get less flexible as we get older ( look at kids running around and compare yourself,) If you are worried about falling or worried about aging parents falling, check out community classes ( yoga, tai chi, falls prevention exercise classes) or consult with a physiotherapist.

    A lot can be done to improves one’s balance, though the best thing would be to keep up your physical activity and flexibility.

  5. posted by PatGLex on

    I actually tripped a few weeks ago on one of those “abrupt edges” on the sidewalk into my apartment. I had minor bruises on my knee and elbow — but I gashed my knuckle badly and needed 4 stitches. I’m still recovering — it’s almost scabbed over thanks to Neosporin {TM} and taking care not to bend it much or immerse it in water — but it’s been inconvenient and has me thinking about things that might cause problems in the apartment. (Can’t do much about making a request for the management to do anything outside beyond grass cutting.) Thanks for the list!

  6. posted by liz on

    When my mom was having some tripping issues, we looked at her shoe styles and found some that forced her to walk heel to toe. And we also tossed shoes,slippers etc that had the slick soles.

    Another idea is to get walking sticks,not canes. Many canes force you to look down. A taller walking stick keeps you upright and looking forward. I kept her walking stick and have used it on snowy and icy days to get down my steep driveway.

    If you can’t install nightlights because of plug locations, consider a small lamp with low wattage bulb to softly light a room. I found a small emergency light that was a nightlight as well as a flashlight. It stays charged and i can always find it.

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