Did you know that a least one in three people aged 65 years and over, fall one or more times a year?

Maintaining a safe home environment is a key element in remaining independent at home. Half of falls occur in people’s own homes, so just because you’re familiar with the environment, doesn’t mean it’s safe. Use this checklist as a guide to evaluate your home. Many of the changes are simple and inexpensive and can be implemented by you and your family. If however you have further concerns, an Occupational Therapy home assessment should be arranged.

Steps

  • Mark front edge of steps with non-slip coloured strips to improve visibility
  • Install sturdy handrails along the entire length of stairs
  • Your hand should wrap completely around the hand rail
  • Install light switches at the top and bottom of stairways
  • Keep steps free of clutter

Flooring

  • Carpeting should be securely fastened down. Avoid throw rugs and loose mats. Place non slip backing under essential mats and check it regularly
  • Fasten cords and cables to the skirting boards or tape them to the floor.
  • Be careful near pets and small children
  • Keep the floor clean. Promptly clean up spills
  • Keep walkways clear – remove clutter
  • Make sure your carpets are in good condition
  • Do not polish floors – this can make them very slippery

Lighting

  • Ensure lighting in entrances, hallways and stairways are well lit by using 75-100W globes
  • Ensure you can always turn on a light before walking into a dark room
  • Have light switches close to the entrance of each room and at top and bottom of stairways
  • Allow eyes time to adjust when going from light to dark areas
  • Switch on a small lamp or install sensor lights or nightlights in passageways
  • Make sure indoor and outdoor walkways are properly lit, especially at night

Furniture

  • Create clear and open walkways
  • Arrange furniture to minimise clutter
  • Avoid low armchairs; choose firm seating with armrests
  • Keep frequently used items within easy reach at about waist level
  • Avoid leaning to reach power points, curtains, appliances or to open windows
  • Ensure benches/tables are sturdy enough to support your weight if you lean on them
  • Fit a ‘draught excluder’ to the door rather than using a ‘door sausage’ which you could trip over

Kitchen

  • Arrange your kitchen so that the most frequently used items are easy to reach
  • A kitchen trolley allows you to transport more items with increased safety
  • Counters and tables should be sturdy enough to support your weight if you lean on them

Bathroom

  • Use a non-slip mat or install adhesive safety strips in the bathtub and on floors of the shower
  • If you use a bathmat on the floor, choose one that has a slip resistant bottom
  • Ask an Occupational Therapist about installing grab rails in the bath and shower. Don’t use shower screens, towel racks or soap dishes for support; they can easily come loose causing a fall
  • Avoid using cleaning supplies that may leave a slippery residue
  • Consider using a shower stool for showering and/or drying – standard plastic chairs are unsafe in the bathroom
  • Ensure bathroom and toilet doors open outwards so that someone can reach you in an emergency

Bedroom

  • Keep bedding clear off the floor
  • Ensure nightwear is well above floor level and has no dangling cords
  • Have a light within reach of your bed. Consider a touch lamp or night lamp
  • Keep floors clear in the bedroom
  • Ensure your glasses are within reach if you need them when you get up
  • Beds should be at a good height for easy movement on or off
  • A firm mattress provides greater support and is easier to get up from
  • Get out of bed slowly – sit up on the edge of the bed, before you stand up

Communication

  • Consider a cordless phone or mobile phone you can carry outside
  • Have an easy-to-read list of emergency numbers (ambulance, doctor, neighbour, family member etc) next to the phone. Program your phone with these numbers to use in case of emergency
  • Consider a personal alarm if you are often at home alone
  • Let the phone ring and walk to answer. Don’t rush!

Outside your house

  • Keep tree branches and shrubs trimmed along pathways
  • Paths need to be even and unbroken
  • Use a hose reel to store your garden hose
  • Keep paths free of moss and leaves, and take extra care in wet conditions
  • Advise local council of slip and trip hazards in the community
  • Use sensor lights on outdoor paths/steps
  • Place a small table or bench by the entry door to hold parcels whilst unlocking the door

Who to ask for help

  • An Occupational Therapist can assess you at home and advise on modifications, aids and equipment that can improve safety and simplify tasks
  • Your local Community Health Centre may provide occupational therapy services, or be able to advise of services in your area
  • Your local Council can support you at home with a range of tasks including home maintenance

Where to find support

Contact the Occupational Therapy team at healthAbility:
917 Main Road Eltham VIC 3095
(03) 9430 9100