Making Your Home Safe for Seniors

By David Virden on September 5, 2013

One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. While this may seem relatively innocuous, the reality is that, among this group, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, increasing their risk of early death. In fact, among people 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. The health care costs associated with these falls reaches almost $30 billion a year. So, if you’re caring for an elder loved one at home or want to ensure your loved is safe in their own home, what can you do to minimize their risk of injury?

Get Them Moving!

While this may seem counterintuitive at first, keeping active can go a long way in preventing falls. While you’ll want to have your loved one consult with a doctor before undertaking any physical activity, walking, water workouts, yoga or tai chi can all help improve strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.

Fall-Proof Your Home

Loose rugs, cords, bathtubs and boxes can all increase the chance of tripping and falling. There are numerous things you can do to help keep your home safe for your aging parent or loved one.

In the Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home. Each year almost 250,000 people visit emergency rooms because of an injury suffered in the bathroom. Most of these occur among people 65 years and older. To make the bathroom safer:

Install a walk-in bath or shower instead of a standard tub. Add grab bars and nonskid mats for added safety.

Keep a medical alert button in the bathroom at all times.

On the Stairs

If your home has stairs, ensure there are handrails, preferably on both sides of the steps.

On the Floor

Make sure all floorboards are even and that all rugs are secured with tacks, nonskid pads or double-stick tape.

Use nonskid floor wax.

Throughout the House

Make sure anything used frequently, such as towels, dishes, food, etc. are all within easy reach.

Place nightlights in hallways, bedrooms, bathroom and stairways.

Move newspapers, boxes, electrical and phone cords, plants and furniture out of high-traffic areas.

In addition to “senior proofing” your home, there are others way to keep your elder loved one safe in the home:

Make Sure Their Shoes Support Their Body

Walking around in stocking feet increases the chance of falling, particularly on tile or wood floors. When buying new shoes, always have your loved one get their foot measured, as foot size can change as we age. Also makes sure their shoes:

Can be firmly fastened – Velcro closings or cotton laces are good choices.

Have a nonskid sole with less than a half-inch heel.

Contain enough space for the toes to lie flat and straight.

Fabric or leather should surround the entire foot for adequate support.

Slip-on slippers (open in the back) are dangerous. They can easily cause slips and falls.

Ensure Proper Nutrition

Eating properly is essential for optimum health, including preventing falls and fractures. Of particular importance is Vitamin D and calcium. Calcium is not only important in preventing fractures, it helps healing if a fracture occurs. Vitamin D has been shown to help prevent falls.


Certain drugs and multiple medications increase the risk of falling. Consult you’re your loved one’s physician to determine if medications should be evaluated for risks associated with falling. Pharmacists can also review medications to determine if they are compatible with one another.

Visual Impairments

Vision should be checked regularly and prescription glasses updated as needed. Glasses should always be kept nearby, especially when you get up at night.

Don’t Resist Assistive Devices

Your loved one may not want to hear that it’s time for a cane, walker or wheelchair, but if their physician or the clinical staff recommend any of these pieces of equipment, please follow their advice. The cost is too high for your loved to be injured in a fall that could be preventable by using some assistance.