Your Home: Sanctuary or Fall Hazard?

That favorite armchair, the window above the sink looking over the garden, and your mother’s homemade quilt over the bed are all integral to making your home, your sanctuary. Your home is your space; it’s your comfort zone. And it should be! However, if we think about reasons why people fall, one of the top reasons is because of our home environment.


We all need light to see, right? As we age, our vision changes and it often becomes more difficult to see objects that may be blocking our path in darkness or in a dimly lit room. This means if we forgot to put those shoes in the closet, we may not see them on our way to the bathroom during the night. Nightlights can make a huge difference in ensuring we are confident to see where we need to go. There are even nightlights that are motion sensored or that automatically turn on when it’s dark. Ensuring we have a clearly lit path to the bathroom (or anywhere else!) during the night is important. And what happens if a lightbulb goes out? Balancing on top of a chair to change it yourself is not the correct answer. Wait for a friend or family member to help, or use a sturdy footstool with a support bar around it, only if the lightbulb is low enough to reach this way. Also – it’s helpful to have a light switch or a lamp that’s easy to reach, right next to the bed. This can help prevent stumbling around in the dark, looking for the light switch all the way over by the bedroom door.


With all of our technology these days, we are maximizing our outlets like never before which means there are often cords running from here and there and everywhere! It’s helpful to make sure those cords are pushed up against the wall and taped down. We’re all guilty of leaving shoes by the door, books, newspapers, or magazines by the couch or clean clothes on the stairs ready to be taken up to the bedroom on the next trip up the stairs. The issue is that we may not see or we may forget about those shoes blocking our way to the door and trip right over them. Also – rugs are great, but we have to make sure the edges of our beautiful rugs aren’t sticking up. Good advice is to either get rid of your area rugs or to tape the edges down so they don’t become a trip hazard.


Stairs are great exercise, right?! What could be wrong with stairs? Well, actually, stairs can be quite the hazard, unless we take the necessary measures to make them safe. As mentioned before, leaving items on the stairs to take down or to carry up at a later time is often not a good idea. Those items can become trip hazards. Lighting on the stairs, both at the top and bottom, is very important to prevent stumbling around in the dark looking for the switch (and imagine if that pile of clothes is still on the stairs while you’re stumbling around! EEK!) Handrails are your friend. Making sure they’re secure is important and it’s even better if you have handrails on BOTH sides of the stairs. Make sure carpet on stairs isn’t coming up and if you have stairs with a smooth surface, stair treads are great for providing that extra traction that may help prevent a slip or fall.

Kitchen and Bathroom:

I would argue that the kitchen and the bathroom are likely the two most important rooms in our sanctuaries. And they can also be the most dangerous. Those hard tiles and sharp edges make a fall in these rooms even more hazardous. Using a non-slip bathmat may help prevent a fall in the shower and having a grab bar (one that screws into the wall; not a suction cup) to assist with getting in and out of the shower is helpful. A raised toilet seat and a grab bar by the toilet can both be helpful when getting up from and sitting down onto the toilet. In the kitchen, try to keep items you use more frequently lower in the cabinets and shelves so that they’re easier to reach. That comfy rug in front of the sink may feel great on your feet as you wash dishes, but just make sure it’s secure and is taped down or has non-slip padding underneath.

Our homes are our sanctuaries and we want to keep them that way! Simple adjustments and being mindful about our environment can help prevent a fall. Check out some of these great resources to help with home safety:

Falls Free Wisconsin Home Safety Challenge – Navigate through an actual house in WI and identify potential hazards and learn about how to make your own home safer:

AgeBetter FREE Home Safety Assessments – If you are 60 or older in Dane County and would like a free home safety assessment, email or call 608-230-4445

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Helpful checklist that contains all the information discussed above: