Most seniors want to live independently at home for the rest of their lives. Some do, but many spend at least some time in a facility of some kind. Many that live in a facility will not return home. The tragedy here is that a lot of the seniors that end up living in a facility end up there because of a preventable accident that took place in their home.
Senior citizens fall regularly at home, and are sometimes seriously injured. Elderly people often have bones that are brittle due to osteoporosis, diabetes, and other health issues. When they fall in the tub or trip on the carpet, they can easily break a hip or other bone. Once a bone is broken, and the senior is hospitalized, s/he usually becomes weaker while in the hospital. The senior is often discharged home or to a facility for rehabilitation. From there, in a weakened state, the senior is at risk for another fall.
This scenario is common: The senior might not fall, but may feel weak and is easily tired. As a result, s/he doesn't do the recommended exercises and continues to weaken gradually over time. After a while, the senior is in bed most of the time and needs more and more help. Finally, the senior is dependent and either has full time caregivers or is in a facility for the rest of his/her life. Most of us will spend some time in a care setting during our lives, but by making the home safer, seniors can remain independent longer.
There are ways to make homes safer for elderly people. We are all familiar with ramps instead of stairs. We've seen grab bars in the bathroom, and handrails in the hallway. Many people aren't aware that choosing the wrong carpet can be dangerous for seniors. When considering carpet choices for a senior, consider the following:
1. The color – if the carpet is too dark, it can enhance feelings of depression. Dark carpet is hard to keep clean as well, because most things that fall onto the floor are lighter in color. The senior will be tempted to bend frequently in order to pick up bits of lint, etc., and increase the likelihood of falling. On the other hand, if the color is too light, it will show stains and need to be shampooed frequently. A color that is medium in tone is best for aging eyes and for those practical reasons.
2. Texture – the texture of the carpet is important. Certain textures are gorgeous to look at, but impossible to get really clean if they are soiled badly. If a senior is incontinent, then a small amount of urine could ruin carpet that is heavily textured. The urine could become trapped, and there would be an odor in the carpet, no matter how often it is cleaned. Choose a texture that resists slipping and isn't too plush. It should be comfortable for a senior to walk on barefoot. It should not be difficult for the senior to navigate when using an assistance device such as a walker or wheelchair.
3. The pattern – for the majority of seniors, carpet with a gentle pattern that is clearly seen but not high contrast is ideal. As people age, their vision changes. What looks cool and abstract to a 25 year-old could look like a hole or place to step down to a senior. Certain patterns can cause a senior with depth perception issues to experience dizziness or feel off balance.
4. Padding – thick, soft padding is so luxurious and attractive. It feels wonderful under bare feet. It would seem to be the ideal choice. After all, it can cushion a potential fall and perhaps be the reason a bone isn't broken, right? Wrong!
Thick, cushy padding can cause falls. Sooner or later, the aging senior will need to use a cane, walker or wheelchair. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for elders to safely navigate a walker when it sinks down into padding with each step. Wheelchairs are even harder to move when the ground beneath it is soft.
When a senior is incontinent and has an accident, the carpet might be cleaned easily, but the padding might have to be replaced. Pet friendly carpet padding is made with accidents in mind. Padding should be lightweight, if needed at all. Carpet tiles are ideal for seniors because they often don't need padding, or come with padding attached to the individual tiles.
There is no way to offer a guarantee against future falls, but when the right carpet is chosen, the odds of falling goes down.