Source: Michael Longsdon
Every year, about half of all Americans over 65 suffer a fall. These can be harmless, but they can also cause lasting injuries and even death. As you grow older, it is important to take proactive steps to prevent accidents by making changes to your environment that minimize the risk of falling and enhance your ability to age in place.
Falling risks increased in certain areas
More than half of all senior falling injuries occur inside the home. The bathroom, kitchen, hallway, stairs, and bedroom pose the most risk for a multitude of reasons.
Bathroom and kitchen
According to the AARP, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house for seniors. The kitchen is a close second. This is because water and soap make surfaces slippery, getting in and out of a shower or bath also involves balance, which can tend to deteriorate with age.
The vast majority of injuries in the bathroom could be avoided with the installation of grab bars next to all showers, baths and toilets. You should also place a non-slip rubber mat on the surface or your bath or shower to avoid slipping accidents and always use a bath mat to absorb excess water on the floor. Kitchens should likewise be outfitted with non-slip mats at the sink and fridge, where spills are most likely to occur.
Hallways and stairs
While individual rooms in the house tend to be well-lit, hallways and stairwells can sometimes be neglected as they are rarely used during the night. This means that an older person who, say, needs to use the toilet in the middle of the night, will not be able to see where they are going and are likely to slip and fall.
You should also clear hallways of any potential tripping hazards. This includes carpets and throw rugs, which are one of the most common causes of indoor falls. At the very least, buy some non-slip rug pads, which adhere to the bottom of your rugs to keep it from curling upward and tripping someone over. Stairs may be made safer by installing a gate at the top and increasing the amount of ambient lighting available. Reflective stips may also add to visibility.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a variety of reasons including your general physical and mental health, but it can also reduce the risk of falls. You are more likely to injure yourself if you are tired throughout the day and are not paying attention to where you step. Additional falling risks in the bedroom stem from standing up too soon or rising from an unstable surface, such as a sagging mattress.
Many people assume that older people need less sleep, but this is simply untrue. While changes in sleep architecture are normal as we age, sleep deprivation is not. Senior sleep needs are the same as that of a middle-aged adult, but the difference is that they might have a harder time getting the recommended number of hours. If you are not sleeping well, you need to figure out why and tackle the problem right away. Start by ensuring your mattress allows for quality, restful sleep. Mattresses for seniors need to maintain neutral spine alignment and have enough contouring to relieve pressure points. Refer to this guide to learn more about how to choose the best mattress for your specific needs.
Start making small changes to your lifestyle as well. For instance, improving your strength and balance through exercise – yoga is a great option – will also greatly help you avoid injury. A combination of environmental and lifestyle changes is the best guarantee for a safe and comfortable old age and it is never too soon to get started.
These small changes will help you age in place by decreasing your risk of injury and increasing your ability to live independently.