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Home safety and falls

There are many environmental hazards in and around the home, increasing the likelihood of an individual experiencing a fall.

Approximately half of falls experienced by older adults living in the community occur in their homes and immediate home surroundings, with the leading areas being outdoor areas, the bathroom and the bedroom.

Common hazards around the home include:

  • Areas with dim or poor lighting
  • Cluttered walkways inside and outdoors
  • Objects on the floor or dangling from furniture
  • Stairs, steps, and ladders
  • Loose mats or rugs
  • Slippery floors and liquid spills on the floor
  • Uneven floors, stairs, and shower hobs
  • Wet or uneven outdoor paths
  • Tools and other objects left on the lawn or in the garage
  • Pets
  • Risk-taking behaviours (e.g. using unstable furniture as a walking aid or carrying shopping bags or handbags and placing them on the floor)

Hazards outside the home include hoses or garden tools left on the ground, uneven pavement and dark pathways.

Fortunately, research findings support that home safety interventions can reduce the overall risk of older adults experiencing a fall by 26%. To reduce falls-related hazards, an older adult or health professional should check the home environment and make modifications to remove hazards and minimise the risk of falls.

How can I assist older adults to make their home safer?

Home safety checks and modifications

An environmental review and home hazard modification should be considered an essential part of a multifactorial approach in a falls prevention program for older adults in the community.

Modifying an older adult’s home environment via removing potential hazards or installing assistive technology can reduce the risk of falls in older adults. If needed, an Occupational Therapist can also conduct a home safety assessment and implement modifications. They can assess the older adult’s abilities and identify patterns in how they use their home during daily activities. This process enables the identification of hazards in the home such as slippery floors and unsafe behaviours such as wearing unsafe shoes or leaving clutter in walkways. Changes can then be made to reduce their risk of having a fall.

If an older adult is at risk of having a fall and you think their home may be unsafe, refer them to an Occupational Therapist for a home assessment. Many organisations can assist with assistive equipment or home assessments, including Occupational Therapy AustraliaIndigo Solutions, and Independent Living Assessment.

Indigo Solutions is a national Goods Equipment and Assistive Technology (GEAT) provider, offering more choices and opportunities to provide assistive technology items to older adults. This helps to address Goods Equipment and Assistive Technology service gaps, reduces wait time where an Occupational Therapist assessment is not required, and gives health professionals more options for sourcing items.

Indigo Solutions additionally provides the National Equipment Database (NED), containing comprehensive and up to date information on more than 15,000 assistive technology and equipment products.

Stay On Your Feet® Home Safety Checklist and Make Your Home Safer animation

The Stay On Your Feet® Home Safety Checklist is a simple checklist of what can be modified to make a home and surrounding environment safer. This checklist is a great resource to assist older adults in identifying and removing hazards in their own homes. Download or order free Home Safety Checklists to support your client in making their home safer.

The Make Your Home Safer animation is a fun, educational video. Accompanied by his cat Tiddles, the main character Frank highlights simple ways older adults can make their homes safer to prevent falls.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms are small devices worn by older adults that alert a trained operator at a monitoring service centre in the event of a fall. Personal alarms come in many different forms. However, they are often a small pendant worn like a necklace or a motion detector worn around the neck or at the hip. If the individual falls and requires assistance, they can press a button on the pendant and a call is made directly to the devices emergency centre. Some alarms contain technology that detects falls and if the person has remained on the ground.

Once activated, the operator will speak directly with the individual to assess the situation and access their medical history to determine the appropriate response. A nominated family member, friend, neighbour or ambulance service is then contacted to assist. Aside from the ambulance service, nominated contact people require a key to enter the home. Monitoring service centres operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Read the Indigo Solutions Guide to a Personal Alarm System fact sheet for further information about the different types of personal alarms. For more information regarding personal alarm providers, contact Indigo Solutions or Silverchain.

Stay On Your Feet® home safety-related resources

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