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How to Make the House Safer for Mom and Dad

Falls are a serious concern for seniors. Minimize tripping hazards with improved lighting, smart furniture placement and slip-resistant floors.

Mom and Dad aren’t as steady on their feet as they used to be. I’m concerned about them falling at home or when they come to visit me.

Falls are a serious concern for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the number one cause of hip fractures – and an older adult falls every second of every day.

Here are some things you can do to make their home, and yours, a safer place.

Deal with tripping hazards

Start by examining the floors to identify and remove items they can trip over.

  • Remove throw rugs, or secure them to the floor with double-sided tape.
  • Keep clutter off the floor and stairways. Books, papers, magazines, boxes, blankets, decorative items – find a different way to store these items, or get rid of them.
  • Check for wires or cords that must be walked over. Either tape them down or reposition them closer to walls so they’re out of the way.

Consider furniture placement and usage.

Go through each room and evaluate whether you need to move or remove furniture.

  • Are the primary traffic areas clear and easy to navigate? You may need to move ottomans, plant stands or end tables to clear a path.
  • Can they easily access items in closets and drawers? Make sure things are within easy reach and that handles or knobs are easy to use.

Make sure lighting is adequate.

Senior eyes have a harder time in dim light, so examine your home’s lighting scheme.

  • Adding task lighting in the kitchen or extra lighting in the living room, den, bathroom or bedroom helps them see what they’re doing.
  • Be sure hallways and stairways are well lit. Replace burned out bulbs, increase bulb wattage to allowable limits, and make sure the hallway path from their room to the bathroom is adequately lit. You may want to add light switches that glow in the hallways and at the top and bottom of stairways.
  • Automatic night lights in the halls and their bedroom make it easier to see if they wake up during the night.

Re-examine the bathrooms.

  • Make the floor more slip-resistant. Ceramic and tile flooring gets slippery, so place low-profile, non-slip kitchen mats by the tub or shower, toilet and sink. Remove throw rugs.
  • If the tub or shower floor is slippery, add permanent non-slip strips. Suction mats can develop mildew and get slippery over time, so avoid those.
  • If your parent is having mobility issues, look into installing grab bars in the tub and shower, and next to the toilet to help them transition more safely. You may want to get a transfer bench in the shower and a handheld shower head to make bathing easier and safer.

You can find more safety ideas in this Home Safety Checklist.

Other needs to consider.

As you think through these and other safety issues, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. If their house needs significant upgrades to be safe and senior-friendly, it may be time to evaluate whether it’s actually the best place for them to live.

And if they’ve already experienced several falls or they can’t keep the house well-maintained enough to be safe, it could be a sign your senior parent needs help. If you would like to learn about assisted living communities in your area, you can use this community locator tool.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.