When we think about bathroom safety those of us around in the 80’s think about the elderly and the TV commercial for LifeCall where the older woman is lying on the bathroom floor and calls out “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. It’s true the elderly are intrinsically more at risk of bathroom falls than the younger, stronger generation who have better balance and righting reactions, but the environmental risk factors that send our parents to the hospital with a broken hip are the same for us and could land us on our keisters calling out those memorable 8 words.
According to Public Health Agency of Canada, “One third of community-dwelling Canadian seniors experience one fall each year and half of those will fall more than once. The likelihood of dying from a fall-related injury increases with age; among seniors, 20% of deaths related to injury can be traced back to a fall. Nearly half of all injuries among seniors occur at home. The bathroom and stairs are particularly hazardous due to the risk of slipping, tripping and stumbling.”
You can use these tips to make your bathroom safe for anyone to use, at any age:
1. Prepare all supplies in or near the shower or bath before you bathe. For example, lay the towel on the toilet or stool close to the shower or tub so you don’t have to lean out of the tub and reach up to the towel rack which may be more than an arm’s reach away.
2. Remove any loose mats on the floor as they present a trip hazard. Instead use only a mat with grippy backing to step onto out of the bath.
3. Remove rubber bath mats in the tub as they present a trip hazard and instead use adhesive no slip decals on the bottom of the tub.
4. Remove sliding glass doors into tub and replace with shower curtain and rod for full access to the tub.
5. The highest risk for falling happens as you step into the tub and all weight is on one foot. To prevent having to step into the shower, consider using a bath chair or bench so you sit on the chair and then swivel and lift your legs into the tub one at a time. Bath chairs can eliminate all falls that occur in standing. Reserve bathing on the bottom of the tub for those achy body days or when you need an at home spa treatment.
6. Install a hand held shower head so you can access it when sitting on the bath chair and have it hanging down before you get into the tub so you don’t have to stand to access it once in the tub.
7. Do not use towel racks as grab bars as they are not designed to withstand our body weight. If you or someone in your home is using the towel rack or facecloth bar for support, remove and replace with a grab bar designed for bathroom safety and ensure installation meets safety standards.
8. Try siting on the toilet or stool to dry off and eliminate standing and lifting up one leg to dry when wet and slippery.
We are not too young to be safe in the bathroom and teaching our kids these tricks will create safe behaviors and prevent injuries from occurring at home.
Marnie Courage, Reg. O.T. (MB)