There are many great things about being a senior. Retirement, finally paying off your home, watching your kids start their own families and being a grandparent rank up at the top.
But getting older can present some challenges too. Especially for seniors who are still living in their own homes. And chief among them is being at a much higher risk for bone breaking falls.
In fact, injuries from falling send over 2.5 million older folks to the emergency room every year. And now a new study has made some surprising discoveries about one of the most common, hip fractures.
Researchers found that unlike we all assumed, when seniors break their hips it’s more likely to occur indoors and in the warmer months.
Most experts believed more falls would occur outdoors and in the winter when ice or snow is a factor. But the new study reveals how important it is for us to make our own homes senior friendly.
Because it turns out the most common culprit behind those hip fractures are throw rugs!
While they might brighten up a room, they can be bad news for folks who have balance issues or failing eyesight. It’s far too easy to catch a toe under one and take a tumble.
Toss your throw rugs to slash your risk for hip fractures
So if you’re a senior or if you have an older loved one in your life you want to protect, go ahead and toss those throw rugs. They’re not worth the risk.
But getting rid of your throw rugs isn’t the only way you can make your home more senior friendly. You can reduce the risk of falls with some other minor changes.
Following are four more ways you can make your home safer for seniors.
1. Add a mobility rail to the bed:
The same study that outed throw rugs as a fall risk found that the second biggest cause of indoor hip fractures is falling out of bed. But simply adding a mobility rail could slash that risk.
These handy devices can help keep you from rolling out in the night. Plus they provide a nice steady handhold when you’re getting into or out of the bed. Some even come with a handy pocket you can store a few items in such as your remote control or a magazine.
2. Update your lighting:
According to the CDC one out of three adults 65 or over falls every year. Many of those falls are due to dim or poor lighting. And a serious fall when you’re a senior can have disastrous consequences, causing broken bones like those hip fractures we talked about earlier.
If your eyesight isn’t quite what it used to be (and let’s face it, whose is?) it may be time to update the lighting in your home. You can begin by taking a critical look around your house tp identify any potential trouble spots. And then add some extra or brighter lighting to those areas.
Start your update by adding some affordable nightlights on stairways and in hallways and bathrooms. But don’t stop there; consider entrances, the bedroom and any other high traffic areas that don’t have bright enough lighting.
Lamps that turn on when you touch them are a great option for seniors, especially next to the bed. And battery powered motion sensor lights are great for closets, pantries, garages and more.
3. Make the floor safer:
If you’re no spring chicken anymore, you’re probably not as agile as you used to be. You may even be having some balance issues. (If that’s the case, be sure to check out our special report Prevent falls with 4 moves for better balance.) Which means the floors in your home could be full of hidden hazards.
By tossing your throw rugs, you’ve already taken the first step towards making your floors safer. But there’s still more to do.
Take a critical look around to spot any potential underfoot hazards. Securely tape down any area rugs so you don’t catch a toe or have them slip under you. If wall-to-wall carpeting has any buckling, have someone re-stretch them and tack them down.
Make sure that there aren’t any electrical and phone cords in spots that could cause a fall. And look for any other obstacles such as furniture you could trip over on high traffic pathways, especially between the bedroom and bathroom.
And don’t forget to add treads to stairs and nonslip mats to the bathroom and kitchen to slash your risk for falls and broken bones such as hip fractures.
4. Modify the bathroom:
Bathrooms can be hazardous spots, especially when you’re a senior. And visiting them at night when you’re groggy or after having taken medications can make them even more risky.
If you’ve already installed the nightlight and nonslip matt suggested earlier, your bathroom is already safer. But don’t stop there. Adding grab bars in strategic spots, such as near (and in) the bathtub or shower and next to the toilet, is a good idea. There are even some that do double duty as shelves or towel racks.
A shower chair and wall mounted shower head are great if you have trouble standing for longer periods or have balance issues. And non-slip appliques for the bottom of the tub can make slips less likely.
If getting up and down from the commode has become a challenge, consider installing a high-rise toilet. And if getting in and out of the bathtub has become difficult, and your budget allows, walk in tubs are available.
Your senior years can be some of the best years of your life. But falls, and the resulting broken bones such as hip fractures, can put a big damper on things.
Don’t wait for a tragedy to strike. Start taking steps now to make your home more senior friendly.