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Safe Staircases for Elderly

Nick Acaster is Managing Director of Stair Rods Direct. Here, he shares his expertise on how you can make a staircase much safer to prevent your elderly relative from having a nasty trip or fall.

It's natural for elderly people to want to stay and be cared for in their own homes as they get older. After all, they've put a lot of love and work into getting their houses just right, and it's where they will have made a lot of special memories with their friends and family. However, as we get older, we tend to have more specific needs due to the likes of mobility issues. So, some aspects of an old person's home will typically need to be adapted in order for them to remain living there safely.

The staircase is one of the most dangerous parts of a home for an elderly person. In fact, 60% of accident-related deaths among the elderly are caused by falls from stairs or steps, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. So, if you want to help your relative to remain living in their home but want to limit the risks, the staircase will need your attention. In this blog, we are going to outline some of the most effective ways you can make this area of the home much safer.

Add no-slip flooring

One of the most effective ways to limit the risk of a fall on a particular staircase is to arrange for non-slip flooring to be installed. This doesn't have to look out of place either — there are plenty of standard flooring options that already have no-slip properties. For example, laminate or vinyl flooring with added no-slip strips can work very well, as can a low-pile carpet.

If you do opt for carpet, you should ensure that it's fitted very securely and all of the edges are still fastened down properly. You don't want your carpet to become a tripping hazard, and making sure it doesn't come loose is the best way to prevent that.

Make sure there's a sturdy handrail on either side

As older people become less mobile, having something to hold onto as they walk and climb the stairs can be very helpful. Installing sturdy handrails on each side of your relative's staircase will make it easy to grab and hold on to, so a slim round shape is likely to make the perfect choice.

It's also important to make sure the handrail is installed at the most appropriate height for your relative, and keep in mind that it might need to be lowered as they grow older.

Ensure the edge of each step is easy to see

Our eyesight tends to deteriorate as we age, so it might have become difficult for your elderly relative to see where each step on their staircase begins. Fortunately, there is an easy fix that can help with this: adding some brightly coloured tape or paint to the edge of each step can help them to stand out much more clearly and reduce the risk of them falling on the stairs due to misjudging where to step.

Make sure the staircase is brightly lit

Because older people do often have poor eyesight, good lighting is incredibly important, as it can help to make their lives much easier (and safer). While lighting a staircase might not be a priority in your typical home, it's a great move for elderly people, as it can help them to see where they're stepping as they travel up the stairs. Combine bright lighting with the coloured step edges that we've recommended above, and you could do a really great job of reducing the risk of a fall.

We recommend making sure you have a light switch at both the top and bottom of the staircase for ease, too.

Add a stairlift if possible

If your family member is really starting to struggle with the stairs, and possibly even had a fall already, installing a stairlift might be the best move to keep them safe. While there is an upfront cost for this, it will be much less than moving your relative into a care facility, and they'll also be able to retain a lot of their independence.

There are also grants that you might be entitled to if you're looking to install a stairlift to increase someone's quality of life — Age UK has some very helpful information about this.

In the past, stairlifts were quite bulky and unattractive, but they've come on a long way, and are now much more streamlined. So, they won't ruin the look of your family member's home, either. A professional should be able to install one quite quickly — many will only take a day — which will keep disruption to a minimum, too!

Unfortunately, stairs do pose a risk to older people, but there are some steps you can take to help keep your relatives safe. Take these tips on board and you should be able to make their home more fit for purpose, so they can enjoy many more years in the house they love.

Please note: Stair Rods Direct is not liable for any accident or injury resulting from this advice. If you need further advice on making your home a safe environment for an elderly person, please seek a professional opinion.