OT home safety tips and assessment

Occupational Therapy Home Safety Tips and Assessment

Are you an occupational therapy student or new adult-based OT looking for the most useful occupational therapy home safety tips and/or home assessment information? We’ve created this handy guide just for you to help you educate and keep your patients/clients safe at home.

Occupational therapists are often considered the “go-to” professionals when it comes to doing home assessments and providing our patients with crucial home safety tips. This is because our holistic understanding of our patients’ physical, cognitive, and emotional states lends well to providing practical advice to improve safety at home. So let’s dive into everything home safety:

What does the research say about home safety? 

Thousands of older Americans slip and fall at home every year. Many of them suffer severe injuries, and others end up with disabilities.

According to the CDC, there are roughly 36 million falls in older adults each year, and unfortunately, 32,000 of these result in deaths. One out of every 5 falls results in a serious injury, such as head injuries and fractures.

These statistics are scary, and as OTs we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to reduce the risk of falls and the devastating long term effects they can have.

While research is currently lacking, there is some evidence pointing to the fact that occupational therapy home assessments can decrease the patient’s risk of falling.

According to a systematic review, if OTs recommend home modifications and assistive devices, as well as educate the patient and their family, the patient’s risk of falling decreases [1]. This reinforces the importance of having an occupational therapist conduct home assessments.

What is a home assessment?

A home assessment involves an occupational therapist visiting their patient’s home and assessing the indoor and outdoor environment. During this assessment, the OT will take note of any potential hazards, as well as the accessibility of the home. Using your knowledge of your patients’ abilities and the activities they engage in, you will be able to determine the safety of them being in that environment. (Hint: Consider the PEO model.)

As a result of your patient having a new disease, injury, disability, or illness, their abilities may be altered, and their home environment is no longer suitable for their abilities. If possible, it is very beneficial that before your patient is discharged, a home visit or even a virtual assessment be done to assess the environment and provide recommendations to improve their safety.

occupational therapy home assessment

Why do occupational therapists do home assessments?

  • To get an understanding of the home environment where many of your patients’ occupations take place
  • To identify potential barriers or challenges before the patient is discharged home, such as: the door being too narrow for the wheelchair or the presence of stairs
  • To identify safety concerns and fall hazards
  • To determine whether the home environment is accessible to the patient since their new disability
  • To address family members’ anxieties surrounding the home environment and its accessibility
  • To be able to provide feedback to the patient on their home environment and improve their insight into adjustments that need to be made, in order to improve their safety
  • To gain an understanding of the environment and what equipment it needs
  • To recommend where equipment needs to be placed or installed

Tips to improve home safety (separated by rooms):

Bathroom:

  1. Have a rail next to the toilet and in your shower.
  2. Shower in sitting with a shower chair.
  3. Use a raised toilet seat to make it easier to stand up.
  4. Remove the loose bathroom mat.
  5. Use non-slip mats.
  6. Ensure the bathroom light is on when going to the bathroom at night.
  7. Clean up any mess, e.g. clothes left on the floor, books or boxes stacked on the floor.

Occupational Therapy Home Safety

Bedroom:

  1. Keep a light next to your bed at night for when you need to go to the bathroom at night. You can also consider night lights.
  2. Remove loose rugs.
  3. Ensure that commonly used pathways, such as those from the bedroom to the bathroom, are free of obstructions.
  4. Keep your most frequently worn clothing and shoes within easy reach in your cupboards.
  5. Install a bed rail.
  6. Have your phone within easy reach of your bed.
  7. Have a chair to sit on when putting on socks and shoes.

Kitchen: 

  1. Store your commonly used kitchen items (plates, glasses, pots, pans, spices, etc.) in easy-to-reach areas. This would be at waist or shoulder level.
  2. Immediately clean up spills.

Stairs and floors:

  1. Have handrails on both sides of the stairs.
  2. Consider having a ramp, with a gentle gradient, installed instead of steps.
  3. Have a stair lift installed if indicated.
  4. Good lighting is imperative in indoor and outdoor areas.
  5. Avoid plants or floor based décor on the landing.
  6. Adjust your furniture to create a clear pathway in your frequently walked areas.
  7. Remove any loose rugs and ensure that carpets are securely fastened to the floor.
  8. Do not walk on freshly mopped floors or floors wet from rain or showers.
  9. Live in a one-level home or have a main-level setup.
  10. Ensure there are no electric cords in the walkway; tuck them next to the wall.
  11. Be aware of where your pets are at all times so that you do not trip over them while walking.
  12. Place bright tape on steps to provide a contrast color that will make it easier to visualize the steps. The tape must be at the top of the step, as well as over the edge.

Outside:

  1. Have a handrail where there are steps leading into the house.
  2. Keep the outside area clear of debris.
  3. Use an ice melt product or sand to treat ice on outdoor walkways in winter.
  4. Fix uneven surfaces, such as bricks sticking out.

General home safety tips for your patients:

  1. Keep a cell phone or smart watch on you to be able to call family or an ambulance should you fall. Alternatives also include having an emergency response system with a button on a necklace or bracelet or having a smart home device that can respond to commands to call emergency services.
  2. Keep moving! Exercise and balance training have been proven to reduce the risk of falling.
  3. Get a vision assessment. Falls often happen as a result of visual impairments impacting your patient’s ability to see a change in surface or clutter on the floor.
  4. Change in behavior. Old habits die hard, but can be very necessary. An example of this would be showering with a shower chair instead of transferring in and out of the bath.
  5. Change in living environment. You can make all the home modifications in the world, but at the end of the day, sometimes a traditional home environment is just not as safe for your patient. This can be tricky, as 77% of adults, that are 50+, want to stay in their own home as they age [2].

home safety stay active

Home safety handouts for your patients: 

You can consult this home fall prevention checklist, and use it as a handout for your patient to complete the checklist independently.

You can also provide your patient with this brochure to learn what they can do to decrease their risk of falling. 

 _____________

We’re hoping that some of these tips have made you feel more confident with completing your next home assessments and/or providing home safety tips to your patients. It is good to know that we have research that backs up the importance of occupational therapy in home safety and home assessments.

Don’t be shy to advertise to other health care practitioners, patients, and their families that an occupational therapist’s home assessment and home safety tips can reduce the risk of falling and injuries.

Want to learn about becoming a home modifications OT? Be sure to check out our other post, An OT’s Career Transition Into A Home Modifications Entrepreneur.

References:

  • Chase, K. Mann, S, Wasek, and M. Arbesman, ‘Systematic Review of the Effect of Home Modification and Fall Prevention Programs on Falls and the Performance of Community-Dwelling Older Adults’, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, p. 284–291.
  • Davis, ‘Despite Pandemic, , Percentage of Older Adults Who Want to Age in Place Stays Steady,’ AARP, 2021, https://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/info-2021/home-and-community-preferences-survey/.

You may also like

One comment

  • Abigail March 4, 2024   Reply →

    excellent

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

myotspot.com