Avoiding Falls: Making Your Home Safe if You Have Limited Mobility
Making the Bathroom a Slip-Free Zone
Bathrooms are hot spots for falls and injuries. Fortunately, many
bathroom safety measures are simple and inexpensive:
- Don’t rush in the bathroom. Hurrying can make you less careful.
“That’s why we tell our clients not to wait too long before going to the
bathroom,” Chase says.
- Install skid-free mats. Low-pile, non-skid bathmats can prevent
falls on wet and slippery floors. Non-slip mats or appliqués are also
helpful in the tub or shower.
- Put in extra seating. If your bathroom is big enough, put a sturdy
chair by the sink so you can brush your teeth and groom yourself while seated.
Safety chairs designed for use in the shower may be helpful, although they can
also be expensive.
- Don’t bend and stretch. “Bending over to pick up a shampoo bottle or
soap is another hazard,” Van Oss says. Instead, put in a bath organizer, shelf,
or wall-mounted dispenser for shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap. A
long-handled scrub brush makes it easier to wash feet, legs, and other
hard-to-reach places. A standing toilet paper holder can help if it’s difficult
to reach a wall-mounted holder.
- Make it easy to get up. A toilet seat riser or toilet safety rails
(with or without a toilet seat) are helpful if you have trouble getting up or
down from the toilet. A grab bar or two next to the toilet is another
Bigger Home Modifications
Substantial home modifications can get pricey. But they can also be
worthwhile investments for long-term mobility issues. Here are some common
problems and solutions for better mobility and fewer falls.
Outside. Is there a high curb that’s difficult to step over? Look
into having it cut down. Is the garage door sticking or too heavy to lift?
Consider an automatic door. Are stairs a big problem? Covering them with a ramp
can offer easier mobility if you use a walker or wheelchair.
Narrow doorways. Most wheelchairs and walkers require an opening at
least 36 inches wide. If you only need another inch or two of clearance in your
doorway, you can replace conventional door hinges with double-jointed
“swing-away” hinges. If privacy is not important, you can also remove the door
altogether. In other cases, you may need to widen doorways or install pocket
Uneven floor surfaces. It’s best to replace thick carpets with dense,
low-pile carpet or leave the floors uncovered if you have mobility problems.
Hardwood floors are the ideal choice. Replace high doorway thresholds
between rooms with low, beveled ones, or simply remove them.
Getting up and down. If it’s impossible to avoid stairs in your home,
consider getting a lift: a stair lift, wheelchair lift, or elevator. A
ceiling-mounted lift can also help people with limited mobility move from
places such as a bed, floor, or toilet.