As seniors age, it can become necessary to make home modifications to reduce fall hazards. Seniors are most prone to falling at home, where they spend most of their time. So it can be comforting to them and their loved ones to make home a safe place to be. Here’s a list of the top home improvements to prevent falls at home.
Build a Ramp
Many homes have a step or two to get into the home — at the entryway, in the garage, or out the back porch. Seniors can have a hard time getting up the stairs due to weak muscles, stiff joints, or even poor visibility. Plus, outdoor steps can become slick in rain and snow, posing another level of danger.
To help reduce this risk, install a ramp at home entrances. Ramps should have a low slope so that seniors can easily get up and down it without slipping. A 1:12 ratio is commonly recommended, so for every inch in height, the ramp should be 12 inches long. We also recommend installing ramps that are wide enough for a wheelchair, in case your loved one requires one now or in the future.
You may also want to consider the type of material that the ramp is made of. Steel is extremely durable and strong but can be hard to install on your own. While wood is a better option for a DIY project, it may require regular maintenance to ensure that it is safe and in good condition. Whatever kind of ramp you choose, a non-slip surface can add another layer of fall prevention.
Approximate Cost: $300 to $1,800
Install a Stair Lift
If the home is on several different levels, then an older adult may need a stair lift installed. These lifts are a chair on a track that’s placed on the wall. A senior can sit in the chair to be lifted up or down the stairs.
However, there are variations of this design to adapt to a senior’s needs. Stair walkers allow a senior to walk up and down the stairs while holding onto a movable support rod. And wheelchair lifts are foldable platforms that can lift a senior in a wheelchair.
While these lifts can be expensive to install, they can increase the quality of life for a senior by allowing them to safely access all parts of their home.
Approximate Cost: $2,000 to $15,000
Remodel the Bathtub & Shower
Falls in older adults are most common in the bathroom. Many bathtubs and showers are not designed for seniors. As a result, many seniors slip and trip in the shower or when trying to get into or out of the shower.
To get into or out of a tub, a senior must balance on one leg and lift their other leg high to get over the edge of the tub. Once sitting in the tub, a senior must use their strength to stand up and get out of a wet surface. And in the shower, a senior may drop something and try to bend down.
Some showers also have thresholds that can be tripping hazards. Additionally, seniors may have a tough time standing on their own, another risk factor for a dangerous fall.
To help seniors remain independent and empower them to bathe on their own, you may need to remodel the bathtub and or shower. If a senior prefers a bathtub, then you can install a walk-in bathtub. These have a door on the side that allows a senior to walk in without taking a big step. They also have a raised seat so that a senior can sit down and stand up more easily.
If a senior prefers a shower, then a walk-in shower with a shower seat is most advisable. Consider also installing a handheld shower head so that a senior can easily reach the parts they need to wash.
Whether your senior wants a shower or tub, you should also install grab bars nearby to help seniors steady themselves as needed and help reduce fear of falling.
Approximate Cost: $4,000 to $20,000
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Light Up the Home
One big cause of falls is poor lighting. When it’s dim, seniors might not see things on the ground that they could trip on — like clutter or uneven surfaces.
Poor visibility can be remedied by installing additional light fixtures throughout the home. Lamps and nightlights can be a great option to keep the cost down. However, installing overhead lighting will provide your loved one with the best visibility.
And don’t just focus on the inside! Take preventative measures and make sure that any area on the property where a senior likes to go is well lit. This could include the garage, porches, garden, etc.
Approximate Cost: $90 to $500
Transitions between different flooring can be a tripping hazard for seniors. Often, floor transition strips are raised and could cause a senior to trip or make it hard for a wheelchair to navigate. Some types of flooring can also get very slick, leading to a fall.
Consider redoing the floor in the home to avoid transitions. We recommend a slip-resistant vinyl floor or carpet. Both options offer more traction than other flooring options and can look nice throughout a home. Plus, they can be somewhat softer than other options, helping to reduce the risk of serious injury if a senior does fall.
Approximate Cost: $3,000 to $30,000
Move the Outlets
The outlets are typically installed about a foot from the floor in most homes. And many of those outlets get covered up by furniture, while this improves the aesthetics of a home, it can be a fall hazard for seniors. Bending down to plug something in could cause a senior to lose their balance. Likewise, seniors might struggle to reach around furniture or try and move it to get to a hidden outlet.
To help seniors avoid this risk, you can move the outlets in your home. Place them higher up on the wall so they are easier to reach from a sitting or standing position. You can also move the outlets so they are not behind furniture. If there are long cords on the ground, consider installing new outlets to help eliminate those cords, which could be a tripping hazard.
Approximate Cost: $65 to 250 per outlet
For additional tips to help make your home safe for seniors, get your Home Safety Assessment from your local Caring office. It dives deep into potential fall hazards and can help you or a loved one remain safe at home.