3 Easy Home Modifications for Senior Fall Prevention

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Written by Elizabeth PTHome Safety

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The only thing that should be falling is the beautifully colored leaves of trees in the Fall. With age, our risk of falls increases significantly, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything about it.

In fact, environmental factors at home contribute to about 50% of falls. Most are simple to fix but frequently overlooked (until an accident happens). These quick and easy home modification recommendations will increase home safety for everyone and are especially good for senior fall prevention.

Older woman who fell and landed on the floor

I've heard many odd fall stories throughout my Physical Therapy career. If I had a dollar for every time I heard one that begins with "It was so stupid….," I'd have a windfall (pun intended).

But falls are no laughing matter. Outrageous and seemingly "stupid" accidents happen more frequently than most people realize and can result in severe fall-related injuries, even death.

While it's impossible to completely fall-proof a home, these three simple tips can dramatically improve home safety and decrease the risk of falls. They are also budget-friendly and yield immediate results.

Fall Statistics

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 older adults over the age of 65 falls each year. But I know from experience that an alarmingly high number of seniors don't report falls. Research supports this, recognizing that self-reported falls are lacking as fewer than half of seniors who fall tell their health care provider. 

Sadly, an older adult falls every second in the US, and 1 out of 5 sustain serious consequences of falls such as broken bones, head injuries, or worse. And to make matters worse, a history of falls increases the chances of future falls.

Fall Solutions

These tips may be simple and obvious, yet not doing them is responsible for many injurious falls in and around the home. It's not that we don't know they're environmental hazards (I'm looking at you, muddy boots left at the door, squeaky pet toys scattered everywhere, and electrical cords here and there), but keeping up with them consistently doesn't happen for many reasons.

We get busy. Mobility limitations may prevent the ability to clean up around the house. We become so accustomed to our home setup that it's easy to overlook these things.

Tip #1: Pathway Clearance

Notice that it's to keep pathways and not walkways clear. Not everyone may be walking through your home. We must be mindful of someone using an assistive device such as a wheelchair or scooter.

Remove clutter such as decorations, bags, boxes, newspapers, mail, shoes, pet toys, wires, and cords. Even poorly located or excess furniture can be problematic. Placing furniture in and along hallways narrows the path, which should ideally have at least three feet width of clear space.

The ultimate goal of this simple home modification is to keep any clutter or furniture out of any location where someone could be walking or moving.

One way to prevent senior falls is to keep paths clutter-free for fall prevention

The same applies outdoors. Exterior clutter, such as seasonal porch decorations, debris like slippery leaves and moss, and weather, especially rain, ice, and snow, can significantly jeopardize walkways and create slippery steps.

Clearing pathways is often all that's needed to prevent a trip and fall accident. But it takes vigilance and is a work in progress. Indoor and outdoor conditions change quickly, and objects move around frequently during everyday activities.

Tip #2: Strategic Home Lighting

Not every fall hazard is on the floor. Let's move up in the room to my favorite topic and home hack, improved lighting.

Few homes have enough light and could benefit from adding illumination for aesthetics and safety. The main objective is to have even light throughout the room without glare or shadows.

Thanks to LED technology, there are many fantastic lighting options, and it's hard to know where to start. Spend some time in the lighting aisle of your local hardware store, and you will be amazed at the variety of lighting products available today. From motion sensor lights to voice-activated to dimming and color-changing, there's a light for every need and location in and around the home.

An effective home modifications for senior fall prevention is to improve stairway lighting

All indoor and outdoor paths, especially steps and stairs, should be well-lit to maximize safety. Pay special attention to the path from the bedroom to and from the bathroom. This is a frequent location of falls when using the bathroom at night and is a perfect area to add night lights.

Prioritize these areas first to immediately improve home safety for everyone. Pay particular attention to seniors at higher risk of falls, especially at night.

Tip #3: Rug Management

The first senior fall prevention tip, keep pathways clear, is about keeping clutter away from places where someone could be moving or walking.

While rugs may not fall (pun intended) into the clutter category, they can cause the same problems.

So fall prevention tip #3, to continue with the floor theme, is dealing with rugs.

Throw Rugs

You might be thinking, "I know, I know. I should get rid of the throw rugs!"

Yes, it's true. Those lightweight rugs (you know the ones I'm talking about) are bad news. They move easily or bunch up when you step on them.

They're often found in bathrooms, adding another problematic spot in the most dangerous room. I've had multiple clients who stepped on a throw rug, ended up on the other side of the room, and, you guessed it, on the bathroom floor.

Even adding non-slip strips on the back or an anti-slip rug pad won't make them any safer. And frequently, the rug pad also bunches up, creating yet another fall hazard.

As a Home Health Physical Therapist, I have many clients who are adamant about not removing their throw rugs. Sometimes we compromise on putting the carpet at a location, not within a pathway, such as under a plant stand or side table.

Area Rugs

Larger and heavier area rugs can usually become safer using rug gripper tape or anti-slip strips. It also helps if the edge of the carpet isn't too thick but is thick enough, so the edges don't curl up to create another trip hazard. Tapered rug edges, usually found on thicker carpets, are generally best.

Rugs frequently cause slip and fall accidents. Removing rugs or securing them such as in this beach house living room increases home safety for seniors.

Final Thoughts on Easy Fall Prevention for Seniors

So there you have it, my top 3 simple fall prevention tips for seniors at home. Because we get so used to our surroundings, we often overlook these home hazards that are easy to fix. 

Please spend some time today and do a simple safety assessment to see if any of these dangers are lurking in your or a loved one's home. These easy home modifications create impactful results.

Here are even more ideas for fall prevention in and around home. Start making home modifications now to improve safety. It's time and effort well spent.

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?