When we think about aging in place challenges in a home, and the resulting modifications that we might want to make or suggest, the kitchen and bathroom usually come to mind first as areas we want to focus on initially. While the kitchen and bath definitely have issues and areas of concern, the master bedroom has its share of potential issues also. In many ways, these challenges are more serious because we don’t expect them. Therefore, falls, when they occur can be more dangerous because we are totally unprepared for them.
As part of our emphasis on home safety this month – June is “National Home Safety Month” – the bedroom has an important, yet often overlooked, safety component to be factored into the quality of the overall living environment
Bedrooms primarily are for sleeping, but that is not all we do there. If it was just a matter of entering the bedchamber, going to bed, sleeping, and getting up, there would be fewer issues to contend with, but there still would be issues. Even activities that seemingly pose very little risk can create injuries.
Consider just a few of the events that could transpire in the master bedroom, which also can happen in secondary bedrooms that children or guest are using. As people get older and begin encountering more balance issues, or if the mattress of the bed is elevated from the floor so that sitting on it or getting into bed requires a little extra effort, falling out of bed becomes more of a concern. This is especially dangerous because it is totally unexpected when it happens and there is nothing to catch oneself to prevent or stop the fall before impact.
Falling out of bed can happen a couple of different ways. When a person is laying down in bed and tries to rise, they may get their feet tangled in their bedding and fall, or they may overextend their legs from the edge of the bed and lose their balance. When attempting to sit on the edge of the bed, they may misjudge the location of the bed and slip. When rising from the bed after attaining a sitting position first, they can lean too far forward and lose their balance this way.
In a similar way, when they are attempting to steady themselves by resting a hand or forearm on the bed, and they misjudge the location of the bed (poor balance, weak vision, or color or depth perception), they can slip and potentially fall.
Getting dressed can present issues also. Someone can trip on an untied shoelace while walking around the room with it remaining untied. They can get a foot caught in their clothing while putting on pants, pajamas, swimwear, or even a long robe.
When wearing rubber sole shoes, sandals, or slippers – even though rubber has a great coefficient of friction – the rubber may grip too well on the floor and cause someone to stumble or fall because their foot didn’t behave as they expected.
Slipping on the flooring is also possible while wearing socks in the bedroom (whether the floor has any moisture on it or not) or in the bathroom when the floor is wet.
People might walk into the edge of a drawer that was not closed all the way or fall while attempting to over-reach in retrieving something from the top shelf in the closet.
Many of us wear glasses, and seeing well enough to navigate the bedroom first thing in the morning without those glasses or when getting up for a bathroom break in the middle of the night can present challenges.
Then, there is trying to do something in the dark so as to not disturb others or because it was such a familiar task that we could handle it well but ended up losing our balance or walking into something we forgot was there. Motion activated lights can be helpful but can startle another person who wasn’t expecting the light.
Bringing new objects – furniture, shoes, jackets, suitcases, books, or other objects and then forgetting they were there or being suddenly surprised by an unusual shape or shadow that we could not immediately identify. Bringing snacks into the bedroom on plates or in glasses or cups can create issues if we forget where they are and bump the table where they are resting and knock them to the floor – worse if they break and leave sharp glass to contend with in a darkened condition. If we avoid this by placing them on the floor (assuming no pets would bother them), we also could forget them and step on them in the night or upon rising in the morning.
There are other issues in the bedroom such as general purpose and reading lighting and accounting for watching TV, reading, and sleeping activities.