For some people, home is a safe and comfortable abode. For many seniors, however, homes can be full of risk.
Inside a home, the most dangerous place is the bathroom. Slippery surfaces, sharp corners and hard materials make bathroom falls both more likely and more dangerous. Seniors are more likely to fall in the bathroom due to medication side effects, unsteady gait and relatively weaker muscles and bones. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
Avoiding bathroom falls is a life-extending and health-promoting goal. There are several ways of not making a hard landing in the bathroom:
- Installing grab bars in the shower stall, in and beside the tub and next to the toilet.
- Placing non-slip mats on the floor of the shower or bathtub and in front of the toilet and the sink. A non-slip mat on the floor outside the tub or shower will help, too.
- Using a shower chair or a bath tub transfer bench.
- Using a raised toilet seat or a toilet safety frame.
- Removing unnecessary clutter from the bathroom floor and making sure the bathroom is well-lit, including the use of night lights.
However, there is a #1 rule to follow that is guaranteed to lessen the risk of bathroom falls in seniors:
Minimize any unsupervised bathroom visits!
This makes sense - if bathrooms are so dangerous, staying out of them reduces all related risks. Here is how to follow this principle:
- Have a caregiver or family member available to assist a senior with a bathroom visit.
- Use a bedside commode, at least at night - this will reduce both the likelihood and the risk of injury of a fall.
- Perform some personal hygiene activities at the bedside - even hair washing is possible in bed!
- Transport a senior in and out of the bathroom in a universal shower-commode chair.