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.
- 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.
- Mount liquid soap and shampoo dispensers on the bathtub wall.
- Place a small plastic stool with non-slip feet in bathtub to sit on if you’re tired, injured, or ill.
- Install sturdy grab bars in bathtubs and shower stalls and ensure they are secure and can hold your weight.
- Place non-slip matting in bathtubs and shower stalls.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.