Staircase Safety and Preventing Senior Falls

For seniors and the elderly, the stairs are one of the most dangerous parts of a home. A fall on the stairs can be very serious and while there are a number of dangerous situations a senior can find themselves in, falls on the stairs represent the largest cause of accidental deaths and hospitalizations among those who are over 65 years old. This is one of the reasons that so much time is spent finding a way of making the stairs safer and easier to use for the elderly.

One of the most important steps in increasing staircase safety for seniors is to take measures to ensure the stairs are in good repair. There are a number of things that should be considered, but having at least one secure handrail is essential, with studies finding that two handrails actually can significantly reduce the risk of a fall.

Rugs located at the top or bottom of the stairs can also increase the risk of a fall, so throw rugs and those that can slide easily should typically be avoided all together. This is actually true of all areas of a home, but especially in regards to the stairs. Many staircases also include runners on the actual steps of the staircase, which is basically a strip of carpet that is affixed to the stairs. Runners were much more popular in years past, but they are still very common. If properly installed, a runner can reduce the risk of falls, but a poorly secured runner can be very dangerous. Also runners that are too thick can make it more difficult to move up and down the stairs.

The steps themselves should also be specifically checked out, as their condition can help increase the risk of a fall on the stairs. Sometimes the steps might have some loose boards or rotting wood, which can make a fall more likely. If the dimensions of the steps are unequal or not level, this can also make falls more common.

In some cases, no matter what is done to the stairs, the senior might simply not be able to safely use the stairs. This could be the result of a cognitive disorder, such as Alzheimer’s, or a disorder like Arthritis that makes bending the joints painful and difficult. In these cases, it will likely be necessary to install a lifting device in the home, because moving, which is the alternative, can be very expensive and means leaving ones home.

Probably the easiest and least expensive lifting device available is the stair lift. A stair lift can be installed onto the steps and is used to carry the senior up the staircase. Other lifting devices include residential elevators, which are much more expensive and require a lot of home modification, and wheelchair lifts, which are installed in a manner similar to stair lifts, but take up more space and are also more expensive.

For the elderly, finding a way to increase stair safety is quite literally a matter of life and death, but can be achieved by ensuring the stairs are in good condition and also evaluating the abilities of the senior.