Falls are the leading cause of serious death or injury for senior citizens. Providing senior care for your loved ones is vital to successfully aging in place. If you or an aging loved one live alone, you may be concerned about falls and other hazards. Stairways are especially dangerous because they present challenges (like walking on rough terrain or in poorly lit hallways). Fortunately, you can modify your home or the residence of an aging senior citizen family member to more effectively protect against such risks. Achieve peace of mind by following these stairway safety tip for senior care:

Senior Care Tip: Light the Stairway

Light is a senior’s best friend because it warns them of potential tripping hazards. A piece of the carpet could have come up, or a grandchild’s toy might have been left on the stairs. If you or your loved one don’t see the item, you might stumble on it. Protect yourself by installing strong lights and convenient switches. You should have a light switch at both the top and bottom of your staircases. This will prevent you from having to walk up or down without light. Also, select the strongest wattage light bulb that your fixture allows. Most fixtures have a sticker that tell you which bulbs to purchase.

Add and Use Stairway Handrails

A stairwell that has railings on both sides is the safest design. You should use them walking both up and down the stairs, as they stabilize your movement. They can also give you something to grab if you feel like you’re falling. Install handrails on all staircases, no matter how short or tall – even just a few steps should be accompanied by a rail.

Keep Passageways Clear

You might be tempted to place your mail or other objects you plan on bringing upstairs later on the staircase, but this habit creates hazards. If you forget the items are there, you may trip on them. Also be on the lookout for items you might have dropped on your way up or down the stairs. Consider storing things in a basket beside the bottom of the staircase if you still need that visible reminder to take things to the second floor.

Use a Medical Alert System Pendant

Alarm monitoring devices, such as a medical panic pendant or watch, are a great accessory for independent seniors. These devices are worn either around your neck or wrist and contain a button. Should you fall down the stairs or get stuck, simply press and hold the button. The device will alert your home alarm monitoring center, and the operators will notify the proper authorities. Give yourself and your family peace of mind by using a medical panic watch or pendant.

Maintain Carpets

Senior Care Stairway Safety

The carpet running over your stairs is both good and bad for senior safety. It’s good because carpet has more traction than wood or tile, but it can slip. Make sure your carpet is firmly nailed or tacked onto the stairs so it doesn’t slip out from under you. Always be on the lookout for sections of the carpet that have come up or are frayed. If you notice any damage, have it repaired immediately.
Be especially careful of area rugs placed at the top or bottom of your staircase. If you slip on one of those, you’ll be in a very dangerous situation. Be sure you purchase skid-resistant rugs if you must have carpeting in those locations.

Use Color

It’s often difficult to see the edge of the stairs, or to tell whether you’re at the bottom or have one more step left. Many seniors remedy this situation by coloring the edge of the steps. For example, you can put a strip at the edge of the stairs, paint the bottom step a different color or install a bold-pattern carpet.


photo credit: flickr creative commons: remodeleze.com