PLYMOUTH — Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall. It’s estimated that 80 percent of these falls happen in the bathroom. Fall-related injuries can range from minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises to more severe injuries, including broken bones, hip fractures, head contusions, and even spinal cord injury.

Bathrooms are particularly hazardous for seniors because they tend to have slippery surfaces and nothing to grasp in order to prevent falls.

As people age, reduced muscle strength and balance can make falls more common, and those with a history of falls have an even greater risk of falling again. In the bathroom, this can occur when stepping in and out of the tub or shower; when reaching for a towel bar, sink top, or other objects for balance when walking; and when sitting down and getting up from the toilet.

Installing safety features in the bathroom can reduce the risk, and there are many options available.

For the shower and tub:

  • Install grab bars or a tension pole - Towel bars are great for holding towels but aren’t built to support weight. Installing slip-resistant grab bars to help support balance when entering and exiting the shower or tub can help. Seniors should choose bars that are color contrasted from the wall for visibility, and ensure they are securely fixed to the studs of the wall.
  • Using a shower chair - A shower chair can provide stability for balance and be a resting place for those who can’t stand for long periods of time. A good shower chair has rubber tips on the legs to prevent sliding. Also, installing a hand-held shower head allows those with balance issues to shower while seated.
  • Using a bath transfer bench - A bath transfer bench eliminates the problem of stepping in and out of the tub. Users can sit on the bench outside of the tub then slide into the tub, eliminating the need to step over a bathtub wall.

For slippery surfaces:

  • Add non-slip mats - Having a non-slip rubber mat or decals on the floor of the shower or tub, as well as a non-slip rug on the floor, can help prevent slips. A non-slip rug should be placed in front of the toilet, by the sink, or in any place that there is a risk of water making the floor slick.
  • Add non-slip adhesive strips - These can be placed on the top of sink edges to guard against hands slipping if these surfaces are used for balance support.

For the toilet:

  • Use a raised toilet seat - For seniors that have difficulty lowering themselves down to sit on a low toilet seat and rising to a standing position, a raised toilet seat adds three to four inches of height, reducing squatting.
  • Install grab bars for standing and sitting - Grab bars can be installed to help with lowering and raising. There are some raised toilet seats with built-in grab bars.

Comfort Keepers can help

About one-quarter of Americans over age 65 need help with everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and getting in and out of bed or a chair. Trained caregivers can help with these and other tasks, while engaging clients in activities that improve quality of life. They can also provide support for physician-approved diet and exercise plans, provide transportation to appointments and community events and can assess a home for safety issues and reducing fall hazards. For more information, call 603-536-6060 or visit www.nhcomfortkeepers.com.

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