Home Safety for Seniors Checklist

Home is where people feel safe, comfortable, and most at peace, especially as they age.

Under the best circumstances, home is where people feel safe, comfortable, and most at peace. But as people approach the later decades of life, home can suddenly present new challenges. And the costs of senior living and nursing facilities can be prohibitive for many. But there are ways you can ensure your home is as safe as possible as you and your loved ones age in place.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of older adults—more than one out of four aged 65 and older—fall every year, many of them in their own homes.

The National Council on Aging reports that falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death for seniors. Falls result in more than three million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations.

Home Safety

Make Sure Your Home Is Safe to Age in Place

Making sure your home is safe for you and your loved ones as you age is important to staying healthy and maintaining your independence. 

Use the following checklist to help identify and address potential issues in your home, which will help you prevent falls and other accidents from occurring.

Bathroom Safety

When it comes to bathroom safety, the following tips can help make sure you or your loved ones avoid injuries:

  • Never leave an older adult with a severe disability alone in a bathroom.
  • Make sure all showers and tubs are non-slip by using adhesive strips or mats. You can also place them in front of the bathtub, sink, and toilet for added stability.
  • Remove any loose rugs that can cause an older person to trip.
  • Consider installing washable wall-to-wall bathroom carpeting, which can help prevent slips on wet floors.
  • Install a raised toilet seat with handrails to make it easier for older adults to sit down and get up.
  • Put grab bars inside the bathtub and shower and next to the toilet to prevent falls.
  • Install a foam rubber faucet cover over the bathtub faucet to prevent injuries if a person does fall.
  • A bidet toilet seat is a great idea for older adults who have trouble cleaning themselves.
  • Always keep an automatic night light in the bathroom so that older individuals are never in complete darkness.

Also, consider providing a plastic shower stool for older adults to sit on. Installing a handheld shower wand can help make bathing easier than normal. If you can remodel, consider installing a walk-in tub for older adults. Those tubs include safety features like extra-wide doors for easy access, low step-in capability, and slip-resistant surfaces.

Additionally, make sure older adults remove their hearing aids before bathing. Remember that they might not be able to hear you until their hearing aids are properly reinserted. If your elderly loved one doesn't have a pair, consider purchasing hearing aids to avoid miscommunications that lead to falls.

Floor Safety in Every Room of the Home

Liquid or other slippery substances on your floors poses a huge risk for everyone, not just elderly people. Slippery surfaces can result from mopping, spills, plumbing leaks, or water being brought inside during inclement weather conditions. If you cannot completely clean up a wet or slippery area, mark it with a plastic cone or another item to alert those in your household.

As people age and lose mobility, lifting our feet fully off the floor becomes hard as we walk. Examine the rugs in your home and think about how you can improve the transition from room to room. Rugs that aren't secured, have curled edges, or are torn present home safety hazards for seniors. Remove any loose throw rugs to prevent someone from slipping.

Older adults living in a home with cluttered floors are likelier to fall than others. If they have to maneuver around objects, they might lose their balance

So, brainstorm how to organize, discard unnecessary items, and reduce piles to create wide and clear pathways. Remove any clutter from the floor that someone might trip over in every room.

Also, keep electrical cords away from walkways. Even if you run cords under a rug, they will cause a lump and can pose a tripping hazard.

Stairs and Steps

When ensuring that your stairs and steps are safe for you or your loved ones, consider the following questions:

  • Do the stairs have secure handrails on both sides? There must be enough space between the handrails and the wall so older adults can get a firm grasp.
  • Are the stair treads deep enough for older adults to place their whole foot on them when going up and down the stairs?
  • Do the stairs have adequate lighting? There should be functioning light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Each step should provide a safe and stable surface. If you have wood or tile steps that might be slippery, consider installing rubber treads to help prevent falls.
  • Remove any loose runners and rugs on or at the top and bottom of the stairs that may cause someone to trip.
  • Consider installing ramps and chair lifts where feasible, allowing older adults to move around the home safely.

Kitchen Safety

To avoid injuries in the kitchen, consider the following:

  • Keep the kitchen well-lit, even at night, if an older adult wanders in.
  • Install automatic night lights or motion-detection lights to ensure they're never in the dark.
  • Proper lighting must be installed over the stove and countertop areas to prevent injuries.
  • Make items your elderly loved ones need to use easily accessible at a height they can reach, avoiding the need for step stools and ladders to reach cooking and eating utensils.
  • Put a water-absorbent, non-skid mat in front of the kitchen sink to prevent falls.
  • Find sturdy kitchen chairs with arms that older adults can use to sit and get up safely.
  • If possible, opt for slip-proof flooring rather than shiny floors.
  • Encourage older adults to wear non-slip shoes with skid-free soles.
  • Wipe up spills immediately to avoid accidents.

The Bedroom

Consider installing portable guardrails between the mattress and box spring in the bedroom. Guardrails will help keep elderly people from easily rolling out of bed. 

Also, if they get up frequently at night to use the bathroom or roam, the extra time required to navigate around the guardrail might wake them enough. That will make them more stable or remind them to call for assistance.

Additionally, the following considerations may help make the bedroom safer and avoid injuries:

  • If you plan to use a hospital bed with rails and wheels, read the home safety instructions per the Food and Drug Administration.  
  • Think about placing a monitoring device by the bed—like the ones used for babies and small children—so any problems alert you.
  • Install automatic night lights or motion-detection lights so that older adults can see when they're going to the bathroom.
  • Place a small table lamp on each side of the bed within easy reach.
  • Make sure your loved one's bed is the right height. Older adults should be able to place their feet firmly on the floor when sitting on the edge of the mattress.
  • Clear out any furniture or decor that might make it difficult for an elderly person to move around or limit the width of walkways.

Other Living Areas

As with other home areas, keep electrical cords, throw rugs, and furniture away from walkways. Walkways should be wide and uncluttered so that you can easily navigate them. Replace, rearrange, and remodel to help people get around your home. 

Other considerations may include the following:

  • Place decals on picture windows and sliding glass doors so older individuals can easily identify them as glass.
  • Remove low-style coffee tables, end tables, and footstools. Lower-style furniture can be hard to see and easy to trip over.
  • Insist that your loved one asks for help with tasks requiring step stools or ladders.
  • Also, some fire departments will come to change out batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that older adults can't reach.

Encourage your elderly loved one to wear Bluetooth hearing aids, helping them stay connected to iOS and Android phones, tablets, television, and other audio devices. So, no more getting up to answer the phone or turning up the volume.

Medical Alert Devices

Older adults who fall may not be able to get back up. And if they remain on the floor for too long, they can incur additional health problems from injuries like hip fractures.

Many older adults, especially those who live alone, rely on medical alert systems. The best medical alert devices will notify emergency services and the person's loved ones if they experience a medical emergency. Some medical alert devices come with an app for caregivers, allowing them to monitor their loved one's daily activities and track their location.

You can set up smart speaker systems like Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Nest Mini, and Google Assistant to provide medication reminders and help monitor activity in a home. Those systems can contact 911 and other first responders as needed.

Consider Health Status

There are a handful of health factors that could contribute to a fall, which include:

  • Vertigo: This symptom can make an older adult dizzy to the point where they can't stand or walk properly. Talk to a healthcare provider about reducing or eliminating dizziness from vertigo.
  • Vision problems: Many older adults require eyeglasses to see clearly. Older adults should get yearly eye exams to ensure their eyeglass prescription is up to date. If your loved one has cataracts, speak to an ophthalmologist about possible treatments.
  • Hearing loss: Even a mild degree of hearing loss increases the fall risk. Older adults should undergo regular hearing exams to determine whether they need hearing aids.
  • Lack of lower body strength: There are several easy leg exercises you can do to improve strength, mobility, and balance, including Tai Chi and yoga. Encourage your loved one to try them at home or work with a personal trainer who will cater to their needs. Healthcare providers can also advise on the best type of exercise program.
  • Foot pain or neuropathy: Older adults who experience pain or numbness in their feet could easily fall. A podiatrist may recommend special footwear or other therapies to help with stability. Older adults should get their feet checked at least once a year.
  • Vitamin D deficiency: Low vitamin D levels can cause decreased muscle strength and physical performance. Older adults should ask a healthcare provider to test for a vitamin D deficiency. Getting enough vitamin D through food alone is often difficult. So, a supplement may be required.
  • Medications: Sedatives, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can all affect balance. Medications used to treat high blood pressure, such as alpha- and beta-blockers, can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, and weakness when a person gets up in the morning or stands after sitting. Consult a healthcare provider if those symptoms arise.
  • Dehydration: Staying hydrated is essential, no matter how old you are. Keep a water bottle close to older adults, so they remember to drink throughout the day.

Arrange for a Home Safety Assessment

A home safety assessment calls for a home safety expert to come into a home and look for potential fall risks. Experts include social workers, geriatric care managers, and certified aging-in-place specialists. They suggest improvements and provide a customized home-modification plan to eliminate hazards inside and outside the home.

A Quick Review

With the costs of senior living and nursing facilities often prohibitive, many individuals will decide to remain in their own or their loved ones' homes as they age.

Falls happen at home with many older adults. Ensuring the home is as safe as possible and free of fall risks is important. Use the checklist provided to help identify and address potential issues in the home, which will help prevent falls and other accidents from occurring.

Jacqueline Trovato is a health care and legal writer with nearly 40 years of experience.

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2 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Take a stand on falls.

  2. National Council on Aging. Get the facts on falls prevention.

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