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How to Create a Safe Environment for Older People in their Own Home

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By Inga Grimailaite, former carer and current General Manager at Sunrise of Virginia Water.

She has worked for Sunrise for over ten years, completed an NVQ4 in health and social care, and undertakes regular training and attends seminars to keep up to date and further her knowledge and skills. Inga is particularly interested in falls prevention and safety.

One of the biggest health and safety risks we face as we age is harmful falls. Due to age-related conditions, such as muscle weakness and impaired vision, older people in the UK are at the greatest risk of suffering injurious falls around the home. In fact, the most recent National Audit of Falls and Bone Health discovered that falls and fall-related fractures in people - aged 65 and over - result in more than four million hospital bed days each year in England alone.

Moreover, the audit also discovered that injurious falls, including the 70,000 fall-related hip fractures that happen each year, are now the foremost cause of accident-related mortality in older people. As a former carer and the current General Manager at Sunrise of Virginia Water, I have been trained in some of the smartest ways to create a safe environment, to prevent such falls.

Here are some crucial steps you and your loved ones should take to ensure that your home is a safe living environment:

  1. Smart Furniture Design

A good strategy to create a home environment, safe from falling hazards and injury, is to invest in smart furniture. 

Furniture placed throughout older people’s homes should not contain any sharp objects or corners, which could be potentially dangerous. Furniture, such as chairs and tables, should also be purposefully arranged to create multiple points of balance for older people to lean on and support themselves throughout their homes. This practice is especially important as older people often experience poor balance, triggered by age-related medical conditions like arthritis or postural hypotension. 

  1. Easy Reaching

Create an environment more accessible to older people by reducing the need to reach high or bend low throughout their home. You can achieve this accessibility by moving frequently used items to waist-high cabinets and drawers. By decreasing the requirement to reach high above or below waist height, the risk of falling or a stretching injury can be significantly reduced. Additionally, a quick switch from drawer and door knobs to easy-to-grab handles makes gripping and maneuvering much easier. 

Also consider equipping your loved ones with a ‘reacher-grabber’ tool. These are fantastic tools for anyone with mobility issues.

  1. Safe Walking

Clear the way for safer walking in older peoples’ homes. First, take steps to tuck any electrical cords behind furniture and out of the way of main walking paths, or use cable management products - which are available at many DIY or stationery stores - to limit the possibility of tripping. Next, use non-slip rugs that contrast in colour to the flooring underfoot. Combine this placement of non-slip rugs with the wearing of sturdy, non-slip shoes and slippers indoors to maximise safe walking around the home.

Podiatrists have found that the best shoes and slippers for older people are ones that can be laced up or secured, provide good traction, and fit properly. This is important because studies have shown that inappropriate footwear can be one of biggest contributing factors in injurious falls.

  1. Sharper Vision

As vision can decrease with age, be sure to improve the lighting and colour design of older people’s homes.

One way to do this is to create strong colour contrasts between walls, window coverings, large pieces of furniture and flooring. You should also make it easier for your loved ones to get around at night by installing nightlights or even motion sensor lighting along frequent walking paths, especially those between the bedroom and bathroom.

All Sunrise communities in the UK are designed with smart safety elements to keep all residents safe from falling risks. To learn more about the safety and design features at our beautiful communities, visit www.sunrise-care.co.uk.  

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