The average American hallway is very cluttered. You’ll find coat stands, shoe racks, shoes, mats, and even a few stray cat/dog toys gathered around the door. It’s easy for a person with full mobility to navigate, but for someone with mobility and vision problems it becomes a minefield.
If you live in a home that regularly welcomes elderly visitors or you care for an elderly person who suffers from mobility issues, this space needs special attention. Make the entryway safer and you will significantly reduce the risks of trips, falls, and other potentially serious issues.
Take a look at these tips to ensure you have a safe entryway for elderly residents and visitors.
Secure External Steps
In the best-case scenario, an entryway tailored toward seniors wouldn’t have steps. Ramps can be fitted to make life easier for wheelchair users and to reduce the risks of trips and falls in seniors who walk with the aid of a cane.
If this is not an option, make sure the stairs are not slippery and have a low clearance, as some seniors struggle to lift their legs. Add a handrail to support their weight and look for steps or covers that have a rough surface, as this will reduce the risk of slips in the winter.
For multiple steps, consider adding colored strips to improve visibility.
Use Lever-handled Doors
Doorknobs can be hard for some seniors to grip. They may have dexterity problems or arthritis, and these issues turn an otherwise simple task into a painful and frustrating chore. Install lever handles where possible.
If your goal is to make life easier for a senior who makes frequent trips outside the home, a key assist should also be considered. These simple plastic devices attach to small and fiddly keys and make them easier to hold and turn. Some of them even act as key holders.
Secure the Inside Flooring
A carpeted floor is generally safer than a hardwood floor, and this applies to the entryway as well as any internal entryway steps. The carpet needs to be securely fixed in place, as poorly fitted carpets are a tripping hazard.
Don’t assume that a throw rug will be just as effective, as this often causes more problems than it fixes, creating just as much of a tripping hazard as a poorly laid carpet.
Install Bright Lights
Soft mood lighting may seem like the perfect way to welcome your guests to your home, but it may not be enough for elderly visitors and residents. Make sure the entryway is well lit on both sides of the door, especially if you have stairs to navigate.
Ideally, there should be more than one light source, otherwise, the elderly visitor will cast a shadow where they are walking and may miss potential hazards.
Remove Trip Hazards
Don’t trail cables across the floor or leave shoes in precarious places. Remove anything that can be bumped into or fallen over, and ensure the entryway is completely clear and free at all times.
Use wall-mounted coat hooks as opposed to coat stands, and move all shoes into a corner, preferably on a shoe rack.
Adopt good habits when you leave and enter your home. Put shoes away, hang coats, and make sure there are no bikes, toys, or anything else in the way.
Install Grab Bars
Grab bars are some of the simplest and cheapest mobility aids you can buy, but they are also some of the most essential. These bars fix to the wall and give your elderly visitors something to hold onto as they navigate the entryway. They can be added throughout the home and are best used in areas of high activity, such as near doorways, toilets, and the bathroom.
There are horizontal and vertical grab bars and they are fitted with different finishes, including a non-slip finish to prevent accidents.
Check and Maintain Parts of Your Home
Over time, carpets become scuffed, grab bars may weaken, and that devotion you had for a clean and clear entryway begins to lapse. It’s important, therefore, that you devote some time to checking the entryway and maintaining any mobility aids and carpets that you install here.
Why It is Important to Clear Your Entryway
If a young adult bumps into something and trips, they have the core strength and stability needed to maintain their balance and remain upright. If not, their knees, backside, elbows, or hip will take the brunt of the damage and they’ll walk away a little embarrassed, flustered, and with a little bruise or scratch.
When this happens to an elderly person with mobility problems, they don’t have the stability needed to stabilize themselves or the reactions needed to land safely. In addition, their bones are weaker and their skin is thinner, so when they hit the ground they hit it hard and are considerably more likely to suffer breaks and sprains.
Falls are the most common cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the United States and throughout most of the developed world. Seniors break bones, suffer from infections and shock, and even if they survive the initial fall, the resulting recovery period is long and difficult.
Some never recover.
Elderly patients who suffer from fractured hips may need up to 6 months to recover and estimates suggest that as many as a fifth will die within 12 months.
It’s a scary thought, but the good news is that if you make the changes outlined above and reduce fall risks, you can significantly improve their chances of living a long and healthy life.