Access: Which Entry is the Most Safe?

  • What type of ground surface leads to the entry?
  • How many steps are there?
  • Is it posible to add a ramp if necessary?
  • Is there a sturdy railing?

Optimal Conditions Include:

  • Smooth ground surface, level and free of potholes or cement cracks.
  • The least amount of stairs possible.
  • At least one sturdy railing.
  • Step depth as deep as possible to be able to safely use a walker on them.
  • Step height of 6 inches or less.
  • If there is a ramp, the legal elevation is 1 foot of ramp for each 1 inch of height you have the ramp. If you have to extend a ramp up a 2 foot height, for instance, you will need 24 feet of ramp. This legal ramp requirement assumes that a person will be negotiating it alone in a wheelchair.
  • Make sure steps or ramp have non-slip surface.
  • Put non-slip strips or rubber bath mat in the tub.
  • Well-secured grab bars help with getting in and out of the tub or shower. Grab bars need to be secured to wall studs or anchored to the tub. There are a variety of such devices on the market.
  • I suggest use of a bath bench or secure stool in the tub as opposed to sitting on the bottom of the bathtub.
  • Equip your bathroom with a chair, or if not able to do so, use the toilet as a secure place to sit when drying off and dressing to avoid falls that may occur when trying to perform these tasks in a standing position.
  • A removable showerhead on an extension hose is fairly inexpensive and easy to have installed. It makes showering much more easy, especially if sitting on a tub bench.
  • Floor bath mats need to be rubber backed to prevent slips.
  • Consider a soap on a rope that is secured to something reachable, to avoid reaching and stooping, not to mention slipping on a dropped soap.
  • A raised toilet seat with rails around the toilet or a commode around the toilet make getting on and off of it easier.
  • Store linens and towels and other daily used supplies between waist and eye level to avoid reaching and bending, which causes a lot of falls.
  • Keep frequently used dishes and pots and pans between waist and eye level to avoid reaching and bending.
  • Electric can openers are easier on the hands and wrists than hand-turn can openers.
  • Use a damp cloth or one of the several commercially available rubbery devices to open jars. There are devices on the market that anchor up under the cupboard that one can put the jar lid into and turn the jar.
  • There are commercially available devices to use in the kitchen to make almost everything easier to grip, including stove knobs.
Living Room, Bedroom, Hallways:
  • I strongly recommend the removal of all scatter rugs in the home to avoid falls. If necessary to have them, please use some rubber material that you can get at Fred Meyer or elsewhere under each rug. Make the piece you put under the rug big enough so the edges of the rug are not vulnerable to tripping over.
  • Be careful of low overstuffed furniture; it is difficult to get in and out of. Low furniture is the cause of many falls. I suggest raising the chair or couch 4 inches. There are commercially available elevation blocks, or just use a piece of 2 x 4 wood.
  • Use chairs with arms so a person has something to push on.
  • Avoid congested rooms; the more stuff in a room, the more likely a fall can occur.
  • Raise a bed if it is too low and hard to get in or out of. In most cases today’s beds are too high and we need to get aerobic benches to step up on to safely get into and out of bed.
  • Avoid knit socks or slippers: walking on linoleum or hardwood floors with these cause many falls.
  • I suggest wearing good support shoes all of the time; indoors and out, as they provide good foot and ankle support which provides more stability and less fall potential.
If a Walker is Used:
  • For easier movement, consider 3 inch front wheels and tennis balls on the back legs, especially if you have thick or loop carpeting.
  • Put a basket on the walker for carrying things, which keeps hands free to navigate the walker. This avoids a common fall risk.

Loose rug edges, uneven walking surfaces and slippery floors are all high fall risks.