As you age, you become more susceptible to falling. Aging also makes you susceptible to the chance of more severe injuries as a result of falling. In fact, falling is the cause of death for a senior citizen every 19 minutes. While falls in other parts of the home typically result in minor injuries, falls in the bathroom are more frequently fatal. If you have balance issues, you are especially susceptible to slip and fall injuries. Slippery floors and improper bathroom design are the most common hazards found in the bathrooms of the elderly. If you fear that you, or a loved one, might be the next victim of a bathroom fall-related injury, do the following things to keep yourself safe.
Every senior needs to have grab bars in their bathroom. They are simple to install and can go a long way in keeping you steady in all areas of your bathroom. They are great for maintaining balance while getting in and out of the bathtub, and for getting up from the toilet. Do not make the mistake of using a towel bar as a grab bar. These bars are not intended to withstand more than a few pounds of weight and can easily pull out of the wall.
There are grab bars that can be suction-cupped to the wall, but if possible, you should opt for the more stable, bolted-on bars. Make sure that the grab bars you choose are slip resistant and that they are easily visible. Grab bars are inexpensive and essential; try to install some as soon as you can.
Standing for long enough to bathe properly can be difficult. Shower and bath chairs allow you to sit down while you bathe, therefore reducing the chance that you will lose your balance and fall. They are also good for seniors who find it hard to stand while showering. Make sure that the chair you choose has non-slip rubber tips on the legs so that it does not slide around. There are two general types of shower chairs: simple chairs that stay in the shower (or can be moved in and out as needed) that are best for seniors who are able to get into and out of the shower without losing their balance, and transfer benches, which are longer and allow seniors to sit down outside of the tub and “scootch” themselves into the tub.
If you are able to maintain your balance well but fear that you may lose your footing at some point, you may want to simply put a non-slip mat in the bottom of your tub and in any areas where water may accumulate. Slipping on water is a leading cause of bathroom injuries for seniors.
If getting into, and out of the bathtub is problematic for you, it may be time to install a walk-in tub. These tubs have doors on the side that you can open to get in, nearly eliminating any sort of raised threshold. While this is the most expensive option, they are worth it if you wish to continue to live independently without risking injury from falling in the bathroom.
Keep Items In Reach
This tip is especially important if you use a shower chair: make sure that all necessary items are within easy reach. Stretching or reaching for bathing products, whether while sitting or standing, can lead to a loss of balance and increase your chance of injuries. If possible, install dispensers at a lower-arm height so that you do not have to worry about dropping bottles of soap or shampoo. These dispensers are affordable, easy to install, and can easily be refilled by you or a caregiver.
If your bathroom is inadequately lit, you may more easily lose your balance due to a lack of proper visibility. As you may know, seniors also may need to make frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. If you are one of those seniors, make sure that the path from your bathroom to your bedroom is lit adequately. You may also want to consider flipping the hinges of your bathroom door if it opens inward. An outward-opening door will allow a caregiver or EMT to retrieve you easily if you fall against the door.