There is a range of actions you can take to modify your home for safety and accessibility for years to come.
Job One is usually making the environment safe to prevent falls or other accidents. Each year nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits are due to preventable injuries in the home. Recovering from a fall-related injury can take from weeks to many months, or in many cases may even result in permanent limitations. For seniors, the leading cause of death is falls and two-thirds of seniors who fall will fall again within 6 months. Preventing the first fall, is key to maintaining your health and independence.
Below are some basic but important safety tips:
- Store items between knee and shoulder height for easy access
- Remove electrical cords from walking paths and reduce clutter to clear all pathways
- Remove all throw rugs and tape down loose carpet edges.
- Mark top and bottom step with contrasting colored tape.
- Repair cracked walkways and steps and install handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs to provide better, brighter lighting.
- Place a lamp by the bed within easy reach to light pathway to bathroom at night
- Install motion sensor nightlights between bedroom and bathroom as well as at the front and back doors.
- Install a hand-held shower and place a non-skid mat or non-skid strips in the shower/bathtub
- Install an anti-scald device in the shower.
- Install textured grab bars in the shower (ADA rated to support at least 250 lbs.).
- Lower closet rods to prevent over-reaching.
- Wear no-skid shoes that have a secure back (no flip flops).
- Purchase a Reacher to retrieve items from the floor
- Attach a basket to the door under the mail slot to catch mail.
- Carry a portable phone.
- Save emergency numbers in portable phone’s memory/phone directory, and post emergency phone numbers in large print beside all phone outlets.
- If hearing or vision is a problem, consider purchasing a phone which has voice amplification, larger buttons and/or flashing lights. (The California Telephone Access Program offers adapted phones for free to California residents).
Once basic safety steps have been implemented, further steps may need to be considered to overcome barriers in the home. For an overview article of some commonly experienced difficulties along with great ways to overcome them, read 12 Barriers to Living Independently – and 36 Ways to Break Them Down!.