My household needed a makeover after my Hānai Mom became a “fall risk.” As a result of overexerting and not asking for help, Mom fell a few times before I stepped in as her full-time caregiver. Naturally, I want the best for my Mom and sometimes that means that she can’t have things the way she wants them. Thankfully, she adjusts to change well, and we maintain the peace in our home.

We lowered the clothes hanging in her closet so that she could reach them better without having to try to stand and balance while looking for the classiest clothes she could find. For younger people, it might not sound so difficult to stand, balance, and pick out clothes, but for Mom in her 90s, it was easier for her to reach forward instead of upward to get clothing. The rug in the bathroom was nice and it was given to Mom by a dear well-meaning friend, but that had to go. It was too easy for her to get tripped up by it. Other things in the bathroom were removed to give her more space to move around.

I put everything in the home that Mom regularly uses in places that she wouldn’t have to reach far to use them. We even made her bedroom doorway wider so that she could navigate better with her power wheelchair instead of having to rely on her 4-wheel walker. We installed grab bars in the bathrooms and non-slip tread strips in the bathtub. We’ve also had help from a physical therapist to strengthen her arms and legs and an occupational therapist who assisted with Mom’s activities of daily living and smaller motor movements.

We can lose balance and coordination with age, so here are some considerations from the Mayo Clinic to think about to prevent falls:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor to check on the interactions and side effects of your medications, request a referral for physical and/or occupational therapy, have your ears and eyes checked, and maybe have your strength, balance, and walking style (gait) evaluated.
  • Keep moving and doing physical activity. If you fear exercising because you may fall, then speak to your doctor as physical therapy can improve your strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
  • Wear sensible, non-skid shoes or non-slip socks.
  • Remove home hazards – get rid of clutter and things in the walkways that can make you trip, secure/remove loose rugs, store necessities within easy reach, cleanup spills, and use a bath seat to sit while showering.
  • Light up your living space – have lamps to switch on for middle of the night needs, store flashlights close in case of power outages, clear paths of light switches that aren’t near the room entrances, turn lights on before going up and down steps, and place nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Use assistive devices – handrails, non-slip tread for bare wooded steps, raised toilet seat, grab bars for the shower and tub, sturdy plastic seat for shower/tub

We are thankful that Mom never fell and injured herself enough to have to go to the hospital and through the chaos, she was still able to see the brighter side of things and enjoyed seeing all those handsome, muscle-bound firemen coming into the house to help her get back on her feet. Watch your step and move forward with greater confidence!