Simple things can often make a significant improvement in the quality and safety of everyday life.
Two aspects that should be considered for everyone who lives in or visits your home:
- General Accessibility and Security
- Slips, Trips and Falls
Each year, one in every three older Australian takes a fall. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries such as hip fractures and head injuries; and can also lead to the need for residential care. Even the fear of falling can result in loss of confidence and restriction of activities.
Slips and falls don’t only happen to older people, and can be prevented with simple safety measures in the home and outside.
Some risk factors for falls are relatively easy to change and, where falls occur, the severity of injuries can sometimes be reduced. Below are a few examples our Complete House & Home heroes can help:
- For yourself or visitors who are elderly, or use a wheelchair, scooter or walking aid
- Level access from the street or car parking to your front door.
- Small ramps for doorway/thresholds – either permanent or temporary.
- Large ramps in concrete or timber, to replace stairs and uneven paths
- Replace light globes with CFL energy efficient light globes of 12 watts or higher.
- Use plug-in night-lights and have movement sensitive lights near stairs and the bathroom
- Make sure all stairways and pathways are well lit. Prune away any outside plants that cause shadows.
- To save money with your power bill, consider installing solar powered lights
Door Handles and Taps
- Should be easy to grasp and operate with light pressure.
- Lever handles or capstan taps are best.
- For older Australians it is better to have a spout with two taps clearly showing hot and cold.
Grab Bars and Hand Rails – indoors and outside
- These are not just for the elderly, but for anyone who wants to make their home safer and easier to use for both themselves and their visitors.
- Install hand rails alongside stairs, sloped pathways or change in ground height
- Install grab rails in the bathroom and toilet (towel rails are not strong enough to use as grab rails).
- Grab rails must be properly installed onto a reinforced or solid substructure. Rails must be able to withstand 1100N of force applied from all directions. Attaching to a tiled plasterboard wall will quickly become unsafe.
Home Security and Access
- Check that external doors can be locked and unlocked easily and that internal doors can be opened and closed with ease.
- Consider installing an outside Key Safe.
- A Keyless entry system means you never need to worry about losing your key. (remember to tell a trusted family member your unlock code in case you forget)
- Install a wireless, easy to use security camera system.
Lighting and switches
- Make sure that all light switches and power points are located in a position that is easy to reach and easy to see; and are positioned in a consistent location throughout your home.
- Push pad and rocker styles are much easier to use.
Furniture and Fitting Heights
- Furniture (ie. armchairs) and bed height risers can help improve safety and usability for sitting and standing. Properly built and installed risers and platforms are worth trying before you pay for a powered chair riser.
- Toilets can easily be fitted with raised seats with adjustable armrests
- Make sure shelves are within easy reach while standing on the floor – never stand on a chair.
Slip and Trip Reduction
- Put adhesive strips on all mats and rugs, including those in the bathroom.
- Kill mosses, fungi and lichen that make garden paths slippery when wet
- Mark the leading edge of outside steps (for example with white paint) so they are easy to see
- Install non slip edge strips to stairs
- Repair broken, uneven or cracked paths, patios and other walking surfaces
- Coat all hard and potentially slippery surfaces with special slip resistant paints.
- Not all slip resistant paints are the same. Ensure you use a professional product that etches the surface as well.
- Working smoke alarms save lives and have come a long way from the earlier basic models. They can now include a flashing light and vibrating pad (under your pillow).
- Smoke Alarms need to be tested at least once per year.
Medical and Chemical Safety
- Store and use medications and chemicals safely. Install a cabinet that is out of reach of young children but still easy enough for you to access in an emergency.
Shower and Bath, Safety and Usability
- Falls in the bathroom happen for a number of reasons, including dizziness or loss of balance (which can happen to anyone), and slippery or uneven floors.
- Solid bench seats combined with different height grab rails and a hand held shower – all make the bathroom easier to use and can help reduce the worry of harm from falling.
Step Free, Hobless or Wet Room Shower
All these terms describe a style of shower that is safer by reducing the risk of trips and falls when stepping over the edge of a shower recess.
- A step-free shower is ideal in an ensuite, but is even better if it replaces a bathtub.
- Even though glass screens are popular, taffeta shower curtains with weighted hems are safer, more versatile, provide greater privacy, and more suitable in situations when a carer may be called upon to assist.
- Ensure that shower seats are designed for easy access and use by people of all ages and abilities.
- Contrasting floor tiles to mark the shower area are preferable for older people
- Ensure that the floors are correctly sloped and effectively drained so that water does not spread further than intended.
- An ideal size of a step free shower is at least 1200 x 1600
- Fixed shower seats, like grab rails, must be properly installed onto a reinforced or solid substructure.
- If using a plastic furniture chair in the shower make sure it is properly designed, and cannot slide or collapse.