Bedroom safety for seniors is important as falls are the leading cause of injury in the elderly, resulting in over 2.8 million emergency department hospital admissions annually. Since we spend a significant amount of our lives sleeping, bedroom safety for seniors should be a high priority consideration for family caregivers and others caring for a n elderly person. A well-organized and thoughtfully planned bedroom decreases the risk of falls or other accidents, increases safety and independence, and provides a comfortable and safe sleeping environment. In this article are a myriad safety aids on the market to help you turn your or a loved one’s bedroom into a sanctuary. Here is our list of ten bedroom safety tips for seniors. Take a look!
The Right Design
Seniors spend a lot of time in the bedroom for daytime napping and sleeping at night. The risks of night time navigation include tripping and falling, accidentally rolling out of bed, and bumping into furniture or other items that are in the walking path. Moving about the bedroom in the middle of the night can be particularly challenging if an elderly person suffers from physical mobility concerns, general weakness, or vision difficulties. Here are a number of steps you can take when designing, planning, or remodeling the bedroom of a senior family member to ensure safe mobility and reduce risk of falls and other accidents.
1. Accessible Location
The bedroom of a senior person should be located on the main level of the home to ensure easy access to other rooms. Ideally, it should also be on the ground floor, and close to the doorway allowing ease of exit to the outside. If this is not possible, you may consider converting an existing ground-floor room into a bedroom or installing a chair lift to m ake movement up and down the stairs easy and safe. 2. Adequate Space
A folding rollator walker is the best way to stay mobile on all your travels. ( See Product )
While adequate clearance for comfortably moving around is an essential feature of any bedroom, it is particularly important when it comes to the elderly. Seniors with mobility issues need plenty of space around the bed and furniture to accommodate mobility aids such as a wheelchair, a rollator, or a cane.
Furniture placement is also important. A nightstand with a light, large lighted clock, and a flashlight in the event of power outages increases confidence and night time orientation. Protective edges, bubble wrap if necessary, should be placed on any sharp nightstand edges to prevent head injuries resulting from falls out of bed. Removing excessive furniture also supports ease of walking without accidentally bumping knees or other body parts . 3. Accessible Doorway
Thresholds or steps can make passing through a doorway into the bathroom at night time difficult or unsafe, particularly for those using mobility aids. If this is a concern, a bedside commode or a urinal may be used to avoid the possibility of tripping over a doorway threshold.
Narrow doors may need to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair or another mobility device. Also recommended is not installing door knobs that have locks on the inside of the door and that do not have a key lock on the outside facing door. Older adults have accidentally locked themselves in the bedroom eliminating outside access.
Also, be sure to install lever-style door handles that are easy to open, even in an emergency situation (round handles can be tricky to open for those with limited dexterity). 4. Smoke Detector
A bedroom smoke alarm should be installed on the ceiling, or on a wall as close as possible to the ceiling, as smoke rises. Mount the smoke detector near the door in case smoke enters your loved one’s bedroom from another area of the house.
If your family member is hard of hearing, it is a good idea to install an alarm for the hearing impaired that will alert the bedroom’s occupants to the presence of smoke with both sound and a flashing light. 5. Right Color Scheme
While light colors such as soft blues and greens are a soothing option, color contrast can help the elderly differentiate between objects. This is because as we age, our retinas become less sensitive, making it harder to distinguish contrast between colors. This in turn, can make judging distance more difficult. Painting different surfaces—such as the walls, stairs, and floors—different colors can help seniors distinguish between objects and levels. 6. Smooth Flooring
Anything on the floor is a potential tripping hazard, including carpets and throw rugs. It is a good idea to remove all rugs, as they can cause slips and falls, and regularly check the condition of the carpet for ragged or curled up edges. Avoid placing different types of flooring in your loved one’s bedroom—for example carpet and hardwood—as the transitions from one surface to another can make walking more difficult. 7. Easy-to-Open Windows
Make sure that your loved one’s bedroom windows are easy to open from the inside for both convenience and in case of an emergency, and impossible to open from the outside. In particular, the window fittings should be simple to open for people with dexterity issues such as arthritis. 8. Organized Storage Spaces
Making frequently used items easily accessible is crucial to the well-being and safety of an older person. It is particularly important that items are not stored too high or too low for the elderly person to reach. Keep drawers and shelves clean and organized, and if necessary add other organizational aids such as a laundry hamper or a hook. 9. Targeted Lighting
Low light increases the risk of tripping. Strategically positioned lighting is crucial to bedroom safety, particularly for seniors who suffer from poor eyesight. Lights that plug into a standard outlet, and automatically switch on and off at a set time, will make your loved one’s nighttime walks safer without interrupting their sleep.
Alternatively, motion sensor lights switch on automatically when they detect movement and switch off after a certain period of time. Night lights throughout the home in areas where loved ones may walk at night also support safe navigation. 10. Secured Electrical Cords
Electrical or phone cables that run across the floor are a tripping hazard. Arrange your loved one’s bedroom furniture so there are no cords running across walkways. If you have to use an extension cord to connect an appliance with an outlet, place it against a wall where it is not in anybody’s way. Be sure to regularly check all electrical cords for signs of damage. Frayed or cracked cords need to be replaced immediately as they may cause an electric shock or a fire.
As we age, our vision and response time deteriorates, making us prone to slips and falls. These additional bedroom safety tips for seniors will support reducing potential hazards. The bedroom can be a surprisingly hazardous place if not appropriately designed and maintained. Luckily, simple action and bedroom safety aids can give your family member the support they need to stay comfortable and safe. 11. Use a Mobility Aid
An offset cane re-balances your grip for extra support where you need it. ( See Product )
Physical strength and mobility are important to maintain as we age, to avoid potential falls. If you are experiencing physical weakness, balance concerns, or if you have already experienced a fall, schedule a visit with your physician to request a physical and occupational therapy evaluation.
Recommendations for exercises and for assistive devices will be discussed at this evaluation.An appropriate mobility aid is essential for those who have trouble with balance. As not all mobility aids are suitable for the bedroom, it is important to take into account your loved one’s condition and the available space before selecting one.
Try a quad cane for maximum stability you can hold in your hand. ( See Product )
Canes are ideal for those who need a little bit extra support. From traditional wooden canes to offset canes, quad canes, and foldable canes, the range of walking sticks on the market is huge.
Fold and unfold when you need it--folding canes make mobility easy. ( See Product )
12. Eliminate Clutter
Keep the bedroom floor free of clutter to ensure that there are clear pathways your loved one can use to access the bed, doorway, and closet. Clean your loved one’s bedroom on a regular basis, ensuring that there are no pillows, blankets, clothing, or other fall hazards on the floor. 13. Take a Seat
As we get older, physical strength declines and balance becomes an issue. Many older adults can no longer stand and balance on one leg, or are less able to shift weight from one leg to another. These activities, simple when we are young become more challenging as we age.
We become less flexible and are challenged with bending over to put on our shoes. The act of putting on pants when standing (versus sitting) becomes more difficult. Placing a sturdy chair in the bedroom can go a long way to reducing the risk of falls, particularly when dressing and undressing. Place the chair near your loved one’s bed so they can lean on it or sit down while putting their clothes on and taking them off. 14. Install Ceiling Poles and Grab Bars
Quick and easy to install, ceiling-to-floor poles and grab bars provide support for those who require assistance while standing, and transferring in and out of bed.
Install a suction grab bar anywhere you like for a helping hand when getting into or out of bed. ( See Product )
It is important that a grab bar is placed at a comfortable arm height. If you are not quite sure where it would be most useful, opt for a suction grab bar that can be easily relocated. 15. Use Steps and Reacher Grabbers
Don't strain your back or shoulders when trying to reach high items. Instead, grab a handy step for a leg up. ( See Product )
It is important that all bedroom closet shelves holding clothing are easily accessible to your loved one. Equally important is the ability to pick up items off the closet floor like shoes. If you know that some of the shelving is difficult for you family member to reach, offer help or invest in. stepping stool or a reacher grabber to help your family member reach possessions without risking a fall or an injury.
A reacher grabber puts all of your must-have items within arm's reach ( See Product )
If balance is a significant risk, rather than using a stepping stool that does require balance, the better option is to re-arrange closet shelves and clothing so that items are within reach. Each situation should be individually evaluated to determine the best option for a loved one. 16. Choose a Bedside Commode
A bedside commode ensures you never have to go far when nature calls. ( See Product )
Ideal for seniors with mobility or continence issues, bedside commodes reduce the risk of falls on the way to the bathroom. Placed beside the bed, portable toilets are essentially a chair with a toilet seat and a removable bucket underneath. Bedside commodes usually come with a backrest and armrests for additional comfort and safety.
Don’t forget to place toilet paper and hand sanitizer within easy reach of the commode. For men, a urinal with an appropriate night stand to avoid tipping over the urinal is an alternative to a bedside commode. 17. Wear Nonslip shoes
Wearing sandals, backless shoes, and floppy slippers can contribute to a fall. For more ankle support, opt for closed slippers with a Velcro fastening. Whatever footwear you select, be sure that the slippers are extra-wide and ultra-comfortable if your loved one suffers from diabetes or another foot condition such as overlapping toes or bunions.
18. Make Accommodations for Pets in the Home
Older adults love their pets and find comfort in the companionship offered. Yet pets underfoot can result in falls. If sleeping with a pet in the bedroom is a desire, ensure that the pet sleeps on a pet bed placed in an area that is not in the walking path to the bathroom. There are also pet ramps available to allow the dog to walk up and into the bed.
Toys and other pet items like food and water bowls should not be kept in the bedroom as these represent a potential tripping risk. If the home allows, a pet door should be installed so that the older adult does not have to wake to let a dog outside in the middle of the night. Cat litter boxes may be kept out of the way in a bathroom not associated with the bedroom.
The comfort of having a pet companion is important. By ensuring a safe environment, falls and other accidents may be avoided. 19. Ask for Help
Install a medical alert system to let caregivers know when you need an extra hand. ( See Product )
A medical alert system lets your loved one alert you about any potential emergency without leaving the bedroom.
Most alert systems come with a push button transmitter that can be either mounted near the bed or hang around your family member’s neck, and a pager with a variety of chime options. The alert system can be programmed to first call a family member and then notify 911 services or to contact 911 first.
Many older adults injure themselves while transitioning in and out of bed. Another common cause of injury for seniors is rolling out of bed during sleep. Luckily, there are numerous steps you can take to protect your family member from accidental tumbles.
20. Keep Items Within Easy Reach
It is important to keep your family member’s personal items such as medication, eyeglasses, and a water bottle within an arm’s length of the bed.
A touch-activated lamp should also be placed on a nightstand in case your loved one wishes to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.
21. Select a Height-Appropriate Bed
Your family member’s bed should be around a chair height so they can easily sit down and get up from the mattress. When sitting on the edge of the bed with the feet flat on the floor, your loved one’s knees should be at around a 90 degree angle.
Bed risers can help adjust the tilt and height of your bed, for easier transfers in and out. ( See Product )
Use bed risers if the bed is too low to support standing. At the time a regular bed may no longer be practical, a hospital bed may be considered.
22. Buy an Appropriate Mattress
Opt for a firm mattress, rather than a soft one, to make it easier for your loved one to get out of bed. There are situations when renting or purchasing a hospital bed supports well-being or comfort. For persons with congestive heart failure and related medical conditions, a hospital bed supports additional comfort, as the head of the bed can be raised. Clients with limited mobility may experience pressure sores.
The advantage of an alternating pressure mattress is a reduced risk of pressure sores, paired with comfortable support. ( See Product )
An altering pressure mattress will keep them comfortable and reduce the risk of pressure sores. Pressure sores begin as red areas on body parts such as the heels of the foot, the tailbone, or other areas of the body like the buttocks where significant amounts of pressure occur for extended periods of time. The ability to reposition in bed is important as well as using pillows to support body parts.
23. Install Bed Safety Handles
Designed to provide support when getting in and out of bed, bed rails are as varied as each individual.
Select a compact bed assist handle with a handy pocket for personal items for a little extra support or one that runs along a large portion of the bed to prevent accidental falls out of bed. Assistive devices that support ease of transferring in and out of bed and physical safety help avoid falls.
24. Use a Bed Ladder or a leg Lifter Strap
Bed ladders are a lightweight and flexible way to get into and out of bed. ( See Product )
Designed to help those with a weak lower body or a back injury to sit up to then physically pivot to a sitting position with feet on the floor and then to stand from the bed.
Bed ladders feature multiple rungs, like a traditional ladder, that helps seniors pull themselves up rung by rung from a lying position to a sitting position. Most bed ladders are attached to the bed frame at the foot of the bed and can be adjusted in length to fit people of various heights. The use of a bed ladder requires arm strength to physically raise the upper body. 25. Utilize an Overbed Table
An overbed table makes it easy to organize all your must have items right in front of you when bedridden. ( See Product )
Ideal for those with mobility issues or those who wish to engage safely in other activities while in bed, overbed tables eliminate the need for getting out of bed to eat. Overbed tables are like a mini “V-tray table that fits comfortably in the bed over the lap when a loved one is sitting up to support participation in eating a meal or other activity.
If you really want to go all out to make your family member comfortable, invest in an over-bed system that features a reading light, USB hookup, and power outlets. 26. Use Incontinence Backup
A mattress protector keeps your bed clean and dry, even after unexpected accidents. ( See Product )
There are times when rushing to the bathroom in the middle of the night is difficult or unsafe. Placing an incontinence protector, Also known as a bed pad, on top of the bed sheets can provide you or a loved one with peace of mind knowing that if rising from the bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, your mattress is protected. Purchasing a total zip up mattress protector adds additional protection for the entire mattress in the event of spilling a drink in bed or the occurrence of other unintentional accidents.
Wearing protective underwear, also called incontinence pads, at night offers additional hygiene protection. Designed to contour the body, incontinence pads lock in moisture and odor while protecting the skin from irritants.
Hygiene is extremely important when incontinence issues exist. Urinary tract infections, common with the elderly, often result in falls. Mental delirium or confusion is another consequence of urinary tract infections that often result in hospitalization.
Using hygiene wipes when total bathing is not possible is a temporary option to improve hygiene related concerns that result in urinary tract infections. For individuals experiencing incontinence concerns, daily bathing is an important preventative measure to avoid medical complications that may result in illness or hospitalization. 27. Place a Fall Mat Near the Bed
Fall mats absorb shock and prevent injury, when unavoidable falls strike. ( See Product )
An accident can still happen, no matter how good our intentions. A bedside fall mat provides cushioning to reduce the risk of injury in case of an accidental fall out of bed. Usually made from high-density foam, many fall mats are also waterproof, antimicrobial, and slip-resistant. Some bedside fall mats are linked to an alarm system that alerts the caregiver if the patient falls out of bed. Full sized body pillows may also be placed on the left and right sides of the body to provide support to avoid accidentally rolling out of bed.
A wireless alarm system keeps caregivers in touch, no matter where they go. ( See Product )
A bed alarm or floor alarm used in combination with the alarm system are an excellent option to notify of movement when a family or other caregiver is in the home. These devices alert the caregiver when the individual rises from the bed or stands on the floor to allow time for the caregiver to arrive in the bedroom to physically assist the senior. 28. Take Your Time
Many unexpected falls are the result of sitting up or standing up from bed too quickly. Rising too quickly can cause older adults to become dizzy or unsteady. This experience may relate to a diagnosis of orthostatic blood pressure, Meniere's disease, positional vertigo, vestibular neuritis or other diagnoses.
Seniors should ensure that they are fully awake and not groggy prior to standing from the bed. When rising, it is recommended to sit up on the edge of the bed with the feet flat on the floor. Sit until any dizziness is resolved and you feel oriented and balanced prior to standing up. If you experience dizziness when sitting up from lying position, or sitting in a chair to a standing position is a regular concern, consult your physician. 29. Alert Others
Safety for seniors whether in the bedroom, bathroom, or other areas of the home are important to maintaining long term independence. Physical strength remains an important component of remaining independent. Many seniors have the goal of remaining in their home versus moving to a care community or a nursing home.
Click on this link to check out the article. Avoiding Nursing Home Placement: Practical Tips to Support Older Adults to Remain in Their Home.
Other Safety Tips for the Home
While most falls take place due to environmental hazards, here are a few other measures you can take to reduce the risk of you or your loved one falling and hurting themselves.
As we age, physical strength remains important to support independence and the preference of where we want to live. Consult your physician to discuss options for physical therapy or obtain a recommendation for a session with a personal trainer . Low-impact exercise such as yoga, tai chi, or pilates can help an elderly person maintain their strength, flexibility, and balance.
Physical activity can also help maintain bone density, alleviating the risk of fractures in case of a fall. Ideal for elderly adults with mobility and balance issues, chair exercises can also give your loved one a well-rounded workout. Exercise options exist for all individuals regardless of past injuries or current abilities. Having an exercise buddy, a friend or family member, supports a commitment to exercise.
Falls can be caused by fatigue, poor nutrition , dizziness, loss of balance, and other medical conditions. A balanced diet, that includes fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein will help your loved one maintain high energy levels and support muscle strength. Eating four or five small meals a day is preferable to eating larger meals to support level blood sugar throughout the day.
Many seniors report that they are “not hungry”. For these individuals, protein supplements that are liquid or in bar form serve as snacks throughout the day and may also supplement light meals. A consistent daily intake becomes important. Weight loss or gain of ten or more pounds may indicate a change in medical condition. Consult your physician if you experience extreme fatigue or a change in weight.
- Regular Hearing and Ear Check-ups
This may come as a surprise to many but annual hearing check-ups can prevent falls in seniors. Hearing problems, ear infections, and excessive ear wax build up can disrupt the balance in the inner ear, increasing the risk of falls. Hearing problems can also be indicative of other medical conditions. Medical research exists relating hearing loss and to blood pressure concerns .If you have high blood pressure and notice that you also experience hearing loss, consulting your physician and an audiologist may assist in identifying and monitoring or correcting the concern. Early identification of medical concerns is preventative and wise.
- Assistive Devices for Dressing
Maintain your independence with dressing sticks. ( See Product )
Many seniors find simple routine task such as dressings challenging. Luckily, there are plenty of assistive devices on the market that can take the stress out of this daily activity. Dressing sticks feature an S-shaped hook on one side for putting on and removing clothes, and a zipper pull on the other.
Elastic shoelaces can turn any pair of lace-up shoes into slip-ons. Ideal for those with arthritis, button hooks feature wire loops to make the task of doing up buttons easier. Shoe horns, meanwhile, are perfect for those who struggle bending down.
Button hooks make small or tricky buttons as simple as the flick of a wrist. ( See Product )
Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary
We spend more time in our bedrooms than any other areas of the house. As such, it is not surprising that the question of how to design a safe bedroom that also supports caregiving activities is important. From modifying the design of the bedroom to investing in bedroom aids, there are numerous steps you can take as a senior or caregiver to ensure that you or your loved one is both comfortable and safe. Take a look at our list of bedroom safety tips, and equip your family member with all they need to lead a happy and independent life.