5 places you can prevent falls in your home

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | February 10, 2016

A woman helps her husband get around the houseTaking a tumble in your home can have devastating consequences. The CDC reports that 2.5 million older Americans are taken to the emergency room each year for fall-related injuries. But it's not just the elderly who are affected; the CDC also noted that almost 2.8 million children wind up in the emergency room each year after taking a nasty fall.

No matter the age of those in your home, doing everything possible to prevent falls is vitally important. Start by looking at the places in and around the home where falls are most likely, then follow our easy tips to reduce the danger.

On the sidewalk

Snow and rain can make any surface very slick; but even on a clear, sunny day, the sidewalk might be treacherous thanks to moss overgrowth, uneven surfaces, or sloppy landscaping. Start by making sure the sidewalk is entirely even, with no cracks or overgrowth between stones or slabs. Then stay dedicated to keeping it clean. If you have uncertain footing, consider installing a railing that runs along one side of the walk.

If your walk includes a few steps to get up to the door, use non-skid paint and strips on each step for traction. A covered porch or canopy over the steps can help preserve safety during snowy and rainy times. And finally, remember the lighting: Strong outdoor lights that shine on the sidewalk and steps can help you make your way safely in the dark.

On the deck

Whether made of composite or wood -- or even concrete or stone -- slick spots on the deck are bound to occur. Though keeping the deck clear of debris and cleaning it on a regular basis can help, take safety a step further by using non-skid surfaces on the steps and other areas that might become slick when it gets wet out.

Sturdy, stable railings are also a must. If you use the deck at sunrise or at dusk, good lighting can help keep things safe. If one exit from the deck can be transformed into a ramp with rails on each side, you've just enhanced your property (and it's value!) by making the deck accessible to those in wheelchairs.

In the bathroom

The bathroom is home to many falls and injuries, and it's easy to see why: The combination of damp surfaces and plenty of ceramic tile and other unforgiving materials means any fall can be quite serious. The risk can be mitigated a bit by installing non-skid flooring and placing sturdy rails around the toilet area, as well as in the shower or tub.

Walk-in tubs are also an option to help prevent slips and falls. The biggest safety advantage of walk-in tubs is the fact that there is no high lip to step over -- you simply open the door and step in. Walk-in tubs can fit into the same space that a typical tub requires, and includes amenities such as a flexible shower hose, non-skid surfaces, and safety handles.

In the kitchen

The kitchen is home to easy-to-clean, splash-proof floors. But those floors can also become a fall hazard, especially when a bit of water is spilled. In addition, many people enjoy using floor mats or throw rugs on the kitchen floor to help cushion their feet, especially when standing up for a long time, which can slide out from under you.

For the sake of safety, get rid of those throw rugs. Even a foam mat might be a bad idea, so invest in very comfortable shoes to wear around the house instead. Clean up all spills promptly, always take your time when moving around the kitchen, and get help when moving large or heavy pans.

On the stairs

When it comes to falls in the home, the stairs are an obvious culprit that can leave anyone with terrifying injuries. Even plush carpeted stairs don't provide much protection when someone goes tumbling down. The best solution for the entire family is a strong, sturdy rail -- preferably one on each side -- and encourage all family members to use it each and every time they use the stairs.

Does someone in the house need even more support? Make the stairs easier with a stairlift or invest in an elevator that can carry any member of your family from one story to another in complete safety.

Always pay attention to the most basic safety issues: Keep the house well-lighted and clear of any trip hazards. Promptly clear the sidewalks or deck of snow in winter, and be generous in salting the area to reduce ice buildup. Move slowly in areas where falls are most likely, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

With a little care and attention, you can make your home much safer for everyone, no matter the age.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.