Preventing Nighttime Slip and Fall Accidents for Senior Citizens
We’ve all been there. It is the middle of the night, and you wake up needing to grab a drink of water or go to the bathroom. It is hard to see, you’re tired, and not paying attention to where you might be headed. This is amplified for senior citizens, especially visual impairment and coordination, which can make it more difficult to walk and increases the risk for a slip and fall at night, even in a home you know like the back of your hand. In fact, adults 65 and older report that falling is the leading cause of head injuries and broken hips and even more troublesome, once a fall occurs the chance for falling again is doubled. Senior fall prevention at night has become an increasingly popular topic because the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double from 46 million to 98 million by 2060, a rise of nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. Many seniors hope to age in place, a common term used to describe living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. To help make that happen, it is important to focus on senior fall prevention within the home, especially at nighttime.
Ways to Reduce Nighttime Falls and Slips
We always recommend starting with a home audit. A home audit of the house should start with the mindset of what a nursing home or hospital would have implemented in the room to make it safer. You don’t always need to be as extreme, but it will give you a great idea to understand what areas of the home should be improved upon and help you prioritize them to ensure the house is as safe as possible. A few rooms of the home to pay closer attention to include:
Did you know the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that around 235,000 people 15 years and older visit emergency rooms each year because of bathroom-related injuries? On top of that, two of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents are slippery and uneven walking areas. With that information, everyone should be taking a second look at their bathroom!
Considering that as we get older, we generally need to frequent the bathroom more often throughout the day (and night), we made it #1 on our home audit list. First, consider how someone would be potentially moving about the bathroom at night. Generally, it will be for a quick run to use the bathroom or grab a sip of water from the faucet. With that information consider putting a medium grade non-slip product around the sink and toilet areas. A medium grade non-slip tread or tape can withstand shoe traffic, but it is also comfortable for bare feet. We recommend our Safety Track 3500 which is certified “High Traction” by the National Floor and Safety Institute (NFSI) and is also mop-friendly for easy cleaning.
Also consider installing a non-slip bathtub mat in the bathtub or shower. This will reduce the risk of falls in wet, slippery areas. Jessup’s Flex Track® vinyl non-skid mat meets Prop 65, ADA, and OSHA standards.
Be careful when using mats or rugs on the floor to prevent slip and falls because they can sometimes create the opposite effect. When they are not installed properly or are getting worn with curling edges, they can quickly turn into a tripping hazard, especially for senior citizens at nighttime. Make sure any bath mats have non-slip tape underneath to prevent shifting.
Another consideration regarding the floors of the bathroom is to keep them maintained and cleaned. Ensure all tiles or linoleum are in good condition and not chipped or peeling. Also, take extra precaution with the transition from the bathroom to the next room. Often the bathroom floor is different than the room next to it and without t-molding or a clean transition; it can create a nasty nighttime slip and fall for anyone, especially a senior citizen. Lastly, when cleaning, remember to use a product that won’t make the floors slippery, so you aren’t undoing all your hard work.
Two additional tips outside of the bathroom flooring to prevent nighttime slip and falls in senior citizens include:
- Making sure nightlights are strategically placed and working. Make sure they are bright enough to help the person find their way around the space. Don’t forget to place them in hallways if that is the route to the bathroom.
- Clean up before bed. Pick up any towels, clothing, or accessories that contain wires like blow dryers. These are all tripping hazards and can easily be avoided. Consider putting a small hamper or another towel rack in the bathroom if that will make pick up easier.
2. Bedroom & Living Room
The next area to review is the bedroom, and with that, you can do a review of your living room. The simple task of keeping the floor tidy and providing storage for items can easily limit the potential for a slip and fall during the nighttime. Also, put away or tape down any electrical cords, as close to the wall as possible. Keep regularly used items on a nightstand or end table close to the bed or sofa—popular items include remote controls, books, pens, phone chargers, alarm clocks, etc. Other common ways to prevent nighttime slip and falls for senior citizens in the bedroom include putting a flashlight on the nightstand to use when they need to get up and installing an easy peel and stick lighting product like Glo Brite photoluminescent films, which can lead the way to and from doors. Lastly, as we age, we tend to lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance. Even if they aren’t an issue during the daytime, all of these can be increased when waking up in the middle of the night. Considering putting a cane or walker next to the bed to help with nighttime mobility issues.
Make sure going for a midnight snack or glass of water doesn’t turn into a trip to the emergency room. Dirty kitchen floors provide a scary environment in the dark, so consider adding non-slip treads or grip tape strategically placed throughout the most frequented areas of the kitchen at night. Make sure chairs are tucked into the table, and tripping hazards are picked up. Keep a lamp or light on in the kitchen in the evenings to provide adequate light to see where to grab a glass or make a quick snack.
If for any reason stairs need to be taken to get to the bathroom or kitchen, you will want to pay special attention to “slip and fall proof” them. A couple of easy tips include:
- Adding non-slip stair treads is a must for carpeted and non-carpeted stairs. Consider that bare feet will be walking on the stairs, so choose a fine or medium grade for maximum comfort. We recommend our Flex Track 4100 product which is easy to apply and remove if needed.
- Secure railings in place.
Helping Senior Citizens Sleep Through the Night
Many senior citizens have trouble sleeping through the night and will to get up at least once a night. You might be able to help reduce the number of times needed to get up by implementing several changes such as:
- Creating a more relaxing environment in your bedroom. Consider using an aroma diffuser with lavender or other relaxing essential oil blends in the evening. Having an Amazon Echo or other music devices that can shut off on its own has also been known to help people sleep better by playing relaxing music before bedtime.
- It is highly recommended to limit alcohol, caffeine and smoking several hours before bedtime. These few things can greatly affect your initial sleep, quality of sleep, and wake-up habits.
Slip and fall accidents can significantly impact the quality of one’s life, especially senior citizens. By working to preventing nighttime slip and fall accidents you can help a loved one stay on their feet and perhaps age in place longer. As mentioned, even minor changes like adding non-slip stair treads or the addition of nightlights can make a big impact. Also consider having a plan in place if you or a loved one does fall during the night, especially if living alone. A fall detection medical alert or other connective systems might make sense to ensure you, or your loved one is comfortable with bedtime. What are other tips you have to prevent nighttime slip and falls for senior citizens? What have you seen cause nighttime slip and fall accidents?