Trips, stumbles, slips and falls happen to the best of us whether we’re outside or at home. However, as we age, a simple fall can mean more than a little bruise. For older adults, a spill can lead to a broken bone, a hospital stint, a lengthy recovery and a reduction in your personal independence.
Luckily, there is a solution. We’ve compiled a list of eight ways you can increase home safety and reduce your risk of falling.
1. Remove or Secure Rugs and Carpets
Area rugs can make a room feel cozier, and add a splash of color and design—but they can also be dangerous. Removal of area rugs is best to help you reduce risk of falls in your home. If you choose to keep your area rugs, however, use non-slip padding and be sure that the edges are fastened to the floor with double-sided carpet tape.
2. Install and Secure Your Handrails
Handrails in the bath or shower are helpful for anyone, as slipping on a wet floor is a common bathroom hazard. If you don’t have at least one handrail already, consider installing one. All stairs, even if there are only two or three steps, should have handrails as well. Every few months, check to make sure all handrails are stable and re-secure those that are loose.
3. Fasten Power Cords Along Walls
If a lamp or appliance you’re using has a long power cord, or you’re using an extension cord, keep the cord fastened to the walls and away from walking areas. While you may be accustomed to taping down cords or snaking them under rugs, the raised areas can also pose a tripping hazard.
4. Use Automatic Lights
Good lighting in your home adds to your safety at night. Nightlights with sensors allow you to ensure every room you enter is well-lit, while keeping your home efficient. Don’t forget to install automatic lighting in stairwells as well. Finally, if you have to get up at night, even if it’s just to go to the bathroom, don’t take chances stumbling in the dark. Taking an extra moment to flip on the light could save you from a painful fall.
5. Use Footwear with No-Slip Soles
If you don’t like the idea of shoes in the house, and many people don’t, keep a pair of indoor shoes that you won’t wear outside. The best shoes are lace-up or fastened ones, with a good tread.
Sandals, flip-flops, socks and soft-bottom slippers should be avoided because they can actually increase the risk of slipping or tripping and they don’t provide your feet with good support.
6. Keep Stairways Clear
As tempting as it is to leave things on the stairs to remind yourself (or someone else) to bring them up, objects on the stairs increase your fall risk—particularly if you are in a hurry or if the lighting isn’t very good. Instead, keep a basket beside the stairs for all those random items.
7. Consult Your Doctor About Nighttime Medication
If you have to take diuretics (medications that make you urinate), take them early in the day unless your doctor has told you otherwise—especially if you also take medication that makes you drowsy. Having to get up in a hurry to go to the bathroom could cause a fall, especially if your reaction time is already slowed by grogginess.
8. Ask for Help When You Need It
If you are feeling unwell or dizzy, don’t take chances; ask for help. While it may seem that you can walk to the next room, if your dizziness gets worse along the way, you may not be able to stop yourself from falling. If you have a fever or are feeling under the weather, ask someone to keep you company until you’re back on your feet—literally. If dizziness occurs regularly, report to your primary care physicians as you may need to have your medications re-evaluated.
You’ve always considered your home to be your safe place, so make sure it stays that way. Make a commitment to eliminate these risks to help you age in place and avoid a dangerous fall.
Looking for more tips on how to stay safe and independent throughout your retirement? Download our free guide, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.
(Originally published May 4, 2016; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)