According to the National Safety Council, approximately 1 million stair-related accidents occur every year. Over 662,000 of those accidents result in injuries that required hospitalization. On average, 20 to 30 percent of adults who fall down the stairs suffer head traumas, hip fractures, and lacerations.
If you wish, you and your aging parents could avoid stairs altogether and purchase a single-story home. But a move might not seem feasible when you consider your budget, your job, and your parents’ comfort.
Fortunately, if you own a multistory home, you can make your stairs safer for everyone, including your elderly parents. With the following adjustments, you can reduce the risk of accidents in your home.
1. Install Additional Lighting
Poor visibility remains one of the biggest culprits for slip-and-fall accidents. Each stair has the potential to create a misleading shadow, and without adequate light, you or an aging family member will be more likely to miss the edge of a step.
Make sure your stairway remains properly lit through low-glare overhead lighting. Replace dim or dying lights with the brightest bulb specified by your light fixture, and ensure that the top and bottom of the stairs have a light switch in place.
If your overhead lights don’t quite brighten your stairs, consider embedding LED strip lights in the handrails and under the lip of each stair. Or install recessed lights next to your stairs for more direct illumination.
2. Choose Appropriate Carpet
Plush, thick carpeting can soothe tired and aching feet while softening creaks, cracks, and groans of aging stairs. Additionally, thicker carpets provide plenty of insulation, so your home stays warmer during the chilly months.
But thicker carpets also pose a tripping hazard, as the material may pull away and bunch up over time. Furthermore, some carpet patterns can create a mind-boggling optical illusion, so you never quite know where one step ends and another begins.
If possible, swap out a thicker carpet pad for a thinner alternative, or choose a carpet with a shorter pile. Opt for simple solid colors when replacing carpet, and remove any loose carpet runners that may line your stairs.
3. Upgrade Handrails and Tighten Mounts
Current building code requires stairs that rise more than 30 inches in height need continuous handrails. Furthermore, handrails should adequately support the full weight of an adult to ensure safety. Building codes have changed over the years, and your older handrails might not meet current requirements. Check online for your city’s current codes or call your local building inspector to get up to date information. Also, check if the screws securing the handrails to the wall have loosened over time, the entire railing could pull away from the wall during an accident.
To keep minor slips from turning into major disasters, regularly inspect your handrails for stripped screws and wobbly mounts. If your current handrail seems too small to support your weight, don’t hesitate to switch to a sturdier, more supportive option.
4. Install a Stair Lift
If anyone in your house struggle with injury, illness, or chronic pain, they may lack the strength or flexibility to ascend or descend stairs safely. Each step can be a challenge.
Stair lifts, however, can give a sense of mobility and independence. When installed correctly, a stair lift can accommodate a single family member at a time as well as any items that may normally upset a sense of balance, such as books, laundry, and grocery items.
Better still, many stair lifts come with additional safety sensors that detect obstacles on the stairs, so you never have to worry about accidental damage to the equipment. Also, most lifts come with foldable features to minimize staircase intrusion, so the rest of your family can use the stairs freely.
Enjoy Your Safer Stairs and Home
Although you don’t have to implement all of the above techniques, these tips will certainly help you manage the risks associated with stair-related accidents. Keep in mind that for the best results, you’ll want to hire professionals to install, upgrade, or improve these features in your home to ensure your stairs meet the latest safety codes.