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Safety for seniors: Preventing falls in the bathroom

BHC bathroom safety main.jpgBathrooms can be a dangerous place for seniors. The floors are slick, the surfaces are wet, the space is small and everything is hard.

If you fall in a bathroom, there is a good chance that in addition to the impact of hitting the floor, you will hit some part of your body – head, knee, shoulder – on a cabinet or fixture.

Recent studies have shown that for people aged 65 and older, falls account for approximately 60 percent of all injury-related emergency department visits and over 50 percent of injury-related deaths annually. And up to 80 percent of falls in the home occur in the bathroom. These fall-related injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises to broken bones, head injury and spinal cord injury.

When are loved ones at risk?

Most falls occur while seniors are transferring in and out of the tub or shower or while using the toilet.

Seniors who are experiencing balance or mobility issues also fall when they are using sink tops, shower bars, hampers or other unstable objects to support themselves when in the bathroom.

Slick tile floors and small bathroom rugs can be a tripping hazard and cause a fall even if a senior is going into the bathroom to wash their hands or brush their teeth.

Adding safety features to a bathroom

Installing safety features is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to help prevent your senior loved one from falling in the bathroom.

  • Install grab bars in the shower, beside the tub and at the toilet.
  • Falls often occur when seniors are getting in and out of the tub or shower or standing up after using the toilet. Place a non-slip mat or decals on the floor of the shower or bathtub and a non-slip rug on the floor outside the tub or shower. Non-slip mats – rather than fluffy rugs – are also the way to go in front of the toilet and the sink.
  • Use a shower chair so your senior can sit while showering and prevent slips and falls. Make sure the chair has a non-slip seat and rubber tips on the feet so it won’t slide in the shower or tub.
  • For seniors who need assistance stepping out of the tub, a bath or transfer bench can help. The bath bench extends over the side of the bathtub with two legs resting on the floor. Seniors can sit on the bench, swing their legs over the side of the tub, and more safely stand.
  • Install a raised toilet seat, which raises the seat height by 3 to 4 inches to reduce the amount of effort needed to sit and stand when using the toilet.
  • Place shelves at eye level in the bathroom for toiletries, so seniors don't have to reach up into a cabinet or bend down to look inside a vanity to get shampoo, toilet paper, air freshener, etc.
  • Regular Cleaning. Soap scum and build up from condensation can leave surfaces slippery. Scrub tubs, showers, grab bars and mats regularly to prevent a slick residue build-up.
  • Use a nightlight or motion-sensor lighting to ensure seniors have adequate light for nighttime visits to the bathroom. Use a nightlight in any hallway along the path to the bathroom from the bedroom or living areas.

Home health care can reduce the risk of bathroom falls by helping you find ways to improve the safety features of the home, monitoring seniors while they use the bathroom and assisting with personal care.

If you have questions about fall hazards and senior safety, contact Belvedere Home Care to learn more about our flexible home health care programs: (518) 694-9400.