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Make Your Home Safer

There are many environmental hazards in and around the home, which can increase 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 of outdoor areas, the bathroom, and the bedroom.

Common hazards around the home include; poor lighting, clutter, uneven or slippery floors, loose carpets and rugs, cords and risk-taking behaviours (e.g. using unstable furniture as a walking aid). Hazards outside of the home include hoses or garden tools left on the ground, uneven pavement, and dark pathways at night time.

Fortunately, research findings support that home safety interventions can reduce the likelihood of older adults experiencing a fall, particularly among older people who are at a high falls risk. In order to reduce falls-related environmental hazards, the home environment should be checked for hazards and modifications should be made to remove hazards or minimise the risk of falls.

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

Home Safety Check

The Best Practice Guidelines to Australian Community Care suggest that an environmental review and home hazard modification should be considered as part of a multifactorial approach in a falls prevention program for older people in the community. Studies have reported that home safety assessment and modification by an Occupational Therapist can reduce falls in older adults at high risk by 36%, particularly among those with poor vision or who have recently been admitted to hospital.

Modification to an older adult’s home environment via the removal of potentially hazardous furniture or the installation of assistive railing or additional lighting fixtures, can reduce the risk of falls in older adults. If needed, a home safety assessment and modification can also be conducted by an Occupational Therapist. The Occupational Therapist can assess the older adult’s abilities and identify patterns in how they use their home during daily activities. This process identifies hazards in the home such as slippery floors, and specific unsafe behaviours such as wearing loose shoes or leaving clutter in walkways. These can then be discussed with the older adult as well as behavioural modifications they can adopt to reduce their risk of falling.

If an older adult is at risk of falling and you think their home may be unsafe, refer them to an Occupational Therapist for a home assessment. There are many organisations that can assist with assistive equipment or home assessments, including; Occupational Therapy Australia and Indigo Solutions.

Indigo Solutions is a national Goods Equipment and Assistive Technology (GEAT) provider, offering more choice and opportunity to deliver assistive technology (devices and equipment) items to older adults. This helps to close 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 also provides the National Equipment Database (NED), containing comprehensive and up to date information on more than 15,000 assistive technology and equipment products.

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. Additionally, the Make Your Home Safer animation provides a reminder of the range of potential hazards in and around the home.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms are small devices worn by older adults that, in the event of a fall, alert a trained operator at (the devices) monitoring service centre. Personal alarms are often a small pendant worn like a necklace or a fall/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 have technology that detects the occurrence of falls and if the person has remained on the ground.

The operator will speak directly with the individual to assess the situation, whilst also accessing their medical history, to determine the appropriate response. A nominated family member, friend, neighbour or ambulance service will then be 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.

Indigo Solutions can be contacted for more information regarding personal alarm providers.

Stay On Your Feet® is provided by Injury Matters and funded by the Western Australian Department of Health.

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Government of Western Australia Department of Health Injury Matters
Injury Matters acknowledge the Whadjuk Noongar people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work, and recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continuing connection to land, waters and community across Western Australia.