14 Practical Tips to Stay Safe on the Stairs
Falls can be devastating and result in traumatic injuries. Stairs can be particularly risky for older adults. A study has even shown that, on average, in the United States, there are one million emergency room visits as a result of accidents on staircases and 12,000 deaths per year.
If your loved one is living in a house with stairs, it's important to make sure they are as safe as possible to avoid the risk of a trip or fall. Here are some helpful tips to help make stairs safer for older adults so your loved one can live safely and independently.
14 Tips to Stay Safe on the Steps
Alter Open Tread Stairs Open tread stairs are particularly hazardous as they trick the eye and can cause confusion, particularly for those living with dementia. It may not be practical or convenient to completely replace a staircase, but simply boxing in open tread stairs can make a great difference in improving safety.
Remove Carpet Runners To make a stairway safer, replace old and worn stair carpeting and runners with non-slip flooring. More importantly, to avoid issues down the line, be sure to have it installed by a qualified builder. Not only should carpets be properly stretched to prevent sagging and bunching up, but they should also be tightly stretched against the nosing of each step.
Improve Lighting Dark staircases are an accident waiting to happen, particularly for an older person with worsening eyesight. Hire an electrician to install light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs and encourage your loved one to switch them on and off as needed.
Wear Appropriate Footwear If your loved one experiences any mobility problems, the correct footwear can be helpful, providing excellent grip and support for the feet. Old or worn shoes and slippers should be thrown out and replaced with sturdy and practical footwear with a non-slip sole.
Keep the Path Clear Stairs should offer a clear path and be free of clutter. Many people of all ages use the first few stairs as a place to hold items that need to go upstairs eventually. However, these extra piles of laundry or pieces of clutter can be a trip hazard. Instead, keep a basket near the stairs to store those items and have someone else take them up at another time.
Choose Paint Colors Wisely For many seniors with compromised vision, it can be hard to tell where one step ends and another step begins. To mitigate the danger, consider painting the stairs in contrasting colors. Alternating between light and dark colors makes each stair more visible, ensuring a safe passage for your loved ones. Or, add bright colored tape to the end of each step. However, it's important to ensure the tape does not come undone and present another tripping hazard.
Add Handrails Stairways in the home should have railings on both sides. Most staircases have a handrail on one side. Still, for older adults who may be unsteady on their feet, having handrails on both sides of the staircase provides valuable additional support. Make sure handrails are sturdy and fit the hand comfortably. The rails should be firmly secured to the wall at elbow height to provide maximum support. Be sure to test that the rails can hold an adult's full body weight without becoming detached from the wall or post. If possible, arrange for the handrail to continue beyond the length of the staircase.
Adjust the Rise In some cases, a complete remodel of the staircase can be the best option. If possible, choose stairs that have a lower rise so that you or your loved one doesn't have to step as high to get to the next stair.
Remove Hazards Rugs should never be placed close to a staircase as they increase the risk of tripping and falling. Check stairs and steps for any potential dangers, such as items of furniture nearby that could cause your loved one to trip or stumble. Ideally, the route to a staircase should be clear, well-let, and uncluttered.
Add Non-Slip Strips While carpet runners are a tripping hazard, hardwood stairs also made slipping a possibility. To make hardwood stairs safer for seniors, add non-slip strips to the steps.
Reduce Stair Time Consider adapting the home's design to reduce the number of times one needs to go up the stairs. For example, a main level bedroom and bathroom can cut down on the need to go upstairs as often. The fewer trips up the stairs, the lower risk of falling on them.
Get a Stairlift Getting a stairlift is the safest method for seniors to get up and down the stairs. Electric stairlifts can carry you or your family up and down the stairs without the hassle since they are extremely easy to use. Some models on the market can fit not only linear staircases, but also curved or spiral staircases.
Include a Resting Spot If you have a larger home with a wide staircase, consider adding a comfortable bench on a landing. This can give seniors a helpful break on the way up or down the stairs.
Improve Balance and Build Strength This safety measure is related to personal improvement rather than home improvement. Exercises that reduce fall risk while navigating the stairs will focus on basic leg strengthening exercises. A beneficial exercise routine should include calf raises, mini-lunges, single-leg lifts, and mini-squats.
Consider these tips to ensure you and your loved ones are safe on a daily basis!