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Additional Personal Safety Articles of Interest:

Personal Safety for Grandma and Grandpa

Personal Safety : Dealing with Stairs and Doorways

Making Your Home Accessible

Independent Aging and Home Safety

Additional Senior Articles of Interest:

Alzheimer's Disease

Depression among the Elderly

General Information and Referral-St. Louis, MO

Health Insurance 101 for Senior Citizens 

Long term care insurance: What is it really?

Medicare: How will it help me?

Nursing Homes: What critical information should I know?

Prescription Medication: You have to get it right

Social Security: Can I get it now?

Senior Housing Options

Senior Care Psychological Consulting

Web Site Map



 Personal Safety for Seniors: Dealing with Stairs and Doorways

Personal safety for your senior family member or friend may mean finding ways for them to navigate both stairs and doorways. Enhancements to personal safety can be improved significantly with just a few of the following suggestions. 

Personal safety in dealing with stairs: 

Rachelle Zukerman Ph.D has written in her book Eldercare for Dummies that "Although stairwells can seem as intimidating as the Grand Canyon to a shaky elder, they can be elder-proofed".  Here are several of the ideas that she has suggested: 

  • Put up a second railing to reduce the chances of stumbling.

  • Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape to compensate for failing eyesight and faulty depth perception.

  • Paint outdoor steps with a rough-texture paint or trim the steps with abrasive strips.

  • Make sure that your elder wears shoes with soles that grip the floor.  Socks or smooth-soled slippers are hazardous to your elder’s personal safety.

  • Attempt to move your elder to the first floor if at all possible.

  • Install a stair-lift (a motorized chair with safety belts and a swivel seat that rides up and down a rail attached to a stairwell).

A motion detector can also enhance personal safety by signaling that your senior is near a dangerous situation such as approaching the top of the stairs or possibly even leaving the home without your knowledge.  Different models can be programmed to chime rather than sound loud alarms which may have a tendency to scare your senior.  You may call the Alzheimer's store at (1-800-752-3238) or visit them online at (

Personal safety: Expanding doorways

Another important factor in the personal safety of your senior is to make doorways accommodating.  A 32-inch threshold will accommodate most wheelchairs, although some extra wide or power driven wheelchairs may need as much as 36 inches to pass through.  Sometimes you may be able to just remove the door, its hinges and the door molding or threshold to make the opening large enough for the wheel chair to pass without the additional cost of a new door to be installed. 

Usually the home modifications necessary for wheelchair accessibility such as adding ramps and widening doorways doesn’t require a building permit, but you should always check your own municipality to make sure before starting construction.  You can usually find your local housing inspector in the front of your phone book under city government. 

You can also find typical accessibility problems associated with personal safety and home-modification solutions as well as financial assistance for home modifications on the administration aging web site called "Elder Action: Action Ideas for Older Persons and Their Families.(  

Other sources of assistance with personal safety issues related to your senior are your neighborhood senior centers and local Area Agencies on Aging (which may be located through the eldercare locator) are excellent sources of information about free or low-cost home modification repair programs in your local area. 

Elders suffering from confusion are especially challenging opportunities to improve personal safety.  If the walls, floors and doorways are of the same color, bewildered seniors can't tell where one ends and the other begins.  Merely painting a dark line where the wall meets the floor or painting the woodwork a dark color may help a lot.  You may also enhance their personal safety by purposely coloring the door the same as the walls when you want to prevent your senior from wandering out of the door.  However, you should still remind your elder of where the exits are situated and what to do in emergencies.

By Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate (Health and Geriatric Psychologist) 

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