Dear Donna:

My dad has had a few falls and a couple of close calls recently. While he hasn’t experienced any injuries, I know we have to figure out a better plan for keeping him safe. My biggest fear is he will fall and be unable to call for help. I live several hours away and can’t be there as often as I would like.

My husband and I will be spending a few weeks with my dad during the holidays. We are planning to try to come up with ways to improve his nutrition. I know that is part of the reason he’s falling.

I’m hoping you can offer some suggestions on a second concern. I want to conduct a safety assessment of my dad’s house. He was stubbornly resistant to our suggestion to hire a physical therapist to do that for us. He doesn’t want a stranger in his home. So, we’ll have to do this on our own.

I’ve already listed obvious tasks like packing up throw rugs and installing grab bars in his bathroom. What other fall hazards should we look for during our visit?


Tina in Holly, MI

Fall Prevention and Home Safety Assessments

Dear Tina:
It sounds like you have reason to be concerned. Falls are the leading cause of serious injury in older adults. Once a senior experiences a fall, they are more likely to fall again. It’s good that you are taking steps to try to prevent your dad from falling again.

Because most falls happen in the bathroom, that’s a good place to start your assessment. Specifically, you’ll want to look for the following hazards and opportunities:

  • Is there a motion light or nightlight that illuminates the path your dad takes to and from the bathroom?
  • Are most-used personal care items stored in places he can easily reach? Step stools can be especially dangerous for people with balance problems.
  • Towel bars can be hazardous. Your dad might be tempted to use them to pull himself up or hold onto while getting in and out of the shower. Replace them with sturdy grab bars.
  • If your dad has trouble sitting down and standing back up, a raised toilet seat with attached grab bars is a good solution.
  • Does the floor present a fall risk? Slippery tiles and throw rugs aren’t a good combination.
  • Does one of the bathrooms have a step-free shower? Climbing back and forth over the edge of a tub is hazardous for a senior struggling with balance. You may also want to add a shower chair for your dad to rest on while showering.

While the bathroom is the place seniors fall most often, also make sure:

  • Stairways have even treads, a sturdy handrail, and good lighting
  • Furniture is arranged in a manner that allows for easy navigating
  • Pathways around favorite spots are free from clutter
  • Carpeting is free of holes, rips, or bunches
  • Extension cords are placed against walls rather than across floors
  • Exterior stairs have a strong handrail and good lighting
  • The sidewalk leading to the garage is in good shape
  • The garage door opener is working
  • Main pathways throughout the home are easy to maneuver and have good lighting

One final suggestion is to purchase a medical alert device. In the event your dad does have a fall, he can quickly call for help.

If you and your dad decide that he would benefit from the supportive environment offered by an assisted living community, I encourage you to consider Heritage. Call a community nearby to learn more and schedule a private tour at your convenience.

Kind regards,