For seniors, the bathroom can be the most dangerous room in the home. The statistics say it all! Seventy percent of home accidents occur in the bathroom. One out of three seniors age 65 and older falls each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year more than 235,000 people are admitted to emergency rooms as a result of bathroom injuries. Add to these statistics, the fact that falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths. There are many potential hazards lurking in the bathroom. Slippery, wet surfaces, very few places to grab if you’re unsteady, and sharp vanity corners, combine to make the perfect setting for a fall that can cause hip fractures, leg, ankle and arm injuries as well as head traumas. For many seniors, diminished vision and some loss of balance may cause instability due to illness and medication.
The good news is with modifications the dangers can be minimized. The first step is to improve lighting in the bathroom and hallway to be able to see potential hazards. Brighter bulbs or new fixtures may be necessary. Remove small area rugs that are easy to trip on or slip on causing a fall. Grab bars should be installed in strategic places next to the toilet and in the bath or shower area. A raised toilet seat can be installed making it easier to sit down and stand up. The shower and bathtub pose more difficult challenges. Slip resistant adhesive strips should be placed inside and outside the bathtub and shower areas. A shower chair or shower bench can also be placed inside the shower. A handheld shower head can be very helpful to eliminate standing and to control the spray settings to one’s individual comfort. Adjusting the water temperature, not to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, is important for seniors since their skin becomes more sensitive to heat. Towels, soap and shampoo should be placed at a conveniently low level to avoid stretching which may affect balance. If finances are not a problem, walk in bathtubs for easy access and roll in showers are available for wheelchair bound seniors.
In spite of all these precautions, accidents can still happen so additional steps should be taken to protect seniors. It’s best to eliminate the lock on the door so entry can be made from the outside in the event of a fall or other problems. A telephone should be installed accessible from the toilet and one in the bath and shower area as well. A medical alert system with a waterproof button would be helpful in the event of an emergency. By creating a safe environment, you can reduce the chances of a hospital visit.