The annual statistics regarding seniors falling are alarming. The incidents of seniors falling in bathrooms are even more staggering.
According to the National Council on Aging, 25% of the American senior population experience a fall each year. A senior dies every 19 minutes from a fall, and a senior is sent to the emergency room for treatment of an injury from a fall every 11 seconds.
Uplifting Mobility admits, “Falls in the home often result in minor injuries, but a fall in the bathroom can be fatal.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report in 2011, that stated as many as 200,000 seniors were treated in emergency rooms due to falls in the bathroom.
Knowing this, it stands to reason that bathrooms are the most dangerous area in the home for seniors at risk of falling. Slippery, wet floors, bathtubs and shower tiles; poorly secured grab bars and towel racks; low toilet seats; and shower benches and chairs without appropriate grips, are all contributing factors to falling accidents in the bathroom.
Although bathroom grab bars are highly recommended, they will not solve all of the bathroom safety issues seniors encounter. I have found eight areas that require attention to keep seniors safe from falling in the bathroom.
As a certified Senior Home Safety Specialist, I think it is vital we observe National Bath Safety Month to focus on and promote bathroom safety to minimize senior fall risks and help prevent avoidable accidents in the bathroom.
The following eight suggestions will help provide your senior loved one increased bathroom safety:
- Grab bars. If there are no secure grab bars built-in to the bathroom, and specifically, the tub and shower design, you can find sturdy suction-style grab bars at your local home store. They are easy to install and they do not damage existing surfaces. The problem is, they are not designed to support a lot of weight, so they can come loose or slide creating a new falling hazard. Bolt-on grab bars and towel racks are better suited to support adults and are recommended. If you do opt for the suction-style grab bars, remember to follow all directions carefully to ensure they are completely secure when installed in areas where seniors with balance issues can reach them easily.
- Slip-resistant Shower Chairs. When chronic pain or balance issues are a concern, it makes sense to invest in a shower chair or bathtub transfer bench with rubber slip-resistant tips to prevent sliding on wet surfaces. These provide an easier transition to the shower or tub and a place to sit and rest while bathing or showering. There are various styles available, depending upon the tub or shower design and the physical constraints of the user.
- Apply shower mats or tub appliqués. Everyone knows bathtubs or shower floors are slippery when wet. Newer tubs and showers may include a non-slip floor surface, but older tubs and showers do not. Provide a safe surface by applying non-slip appliqués or bathtub/shower mats to reduce fall risks.
- Invest in a walk-in tub. When seniors experience difficulties getting in and out of the bathtub, a walk-in tub may be a wise investment. It is much easier for seniors to remain independent and stay consistent with healthy hygiene habits when they do not struggle to bathe. Being able to walk into the tub, which also includes a bench, makes the bathing process less problematic and much safer.
- Keep bathing items within reach. Soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner are toiletries seniors use when bathing. If they have to reach or bend too far to retrieve them when bathing, this can create a falling hazard. Use a shower caddy to keep toiletries within reach. Even better, consider installing refillable dispensers for body wash and hair products to prevent individual bottles from slipping of narrow edges and corners and becoming obstacles.
- Install a higher toilet seat. Seniors that experience difficulties sitting on lower seats due to back, knee or hip issues can benefit from a raised toilet seat. They increase the height by as many as four inches, which can make a big difference for seniors. Most raised toilet seats come equipped with grip bars, but it is important there be secure grab bars near the commode as an extra measure of slip protection.
- Examine lighting and doors. Proper lighting is always important, especially for seniors with vision impairments, balance and ambulatory issues. Make sure lights are bright enough along the path to the bathroom, as well as in the bathroom. Nightlights in the bedroom, corridor and bathroom will help illuminate the way after dark. Doors can pose another challenge. If they open inward and a fall against the door prevents first responders from entering the bathroom, it can cause another set of challenges. Replace the door to open outward for easier access in case of an emergency. Additionally, you may want to widen doorways that are not large enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
- Subscribe to a monitoring service. Home Helpers® utilizes Direct Link, because they offer an exclusive line of monitoring systems that allow seniors to live independently and securely in their own homes longer than they might otherwise. Direct Link systems are always monitored 24/7 by a CSAA 5-Diamond Certified Care Center, allowing you or your loved ones a way to reach out to a live person with the simple touch of a button, anytime, day or night. This adds an extra level of security when seniors are at risk of falling in the bathroom or elsewhere in the home.
If you know a senior who is a fall risk, struggles with activities of daily living, and who desperately wants to remain independent in their own home, I am certified as a Senior Home Safety Specialist, and I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to assess bathroom safety and other home safety needs. If, during my assessment, it is determined that in-home care or our Direct Link monitoring services would be beneficial, I will offer my recommendations. As always, we offer personalized, compassionate, non-medical, in-home care for the disabled and seniors throughout West Pasco and North Pinellas Counties in Florida.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ (727) 240-3059