When it comes to the safety of our loved ones, every precaution is worth examining. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “falls are the leading cause of fatal injury, and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.” The majority of these incidents occur in the bathroom as a result of slippery surfaces, and when we look at the source of this problem there are clear solutions to making homes a safer place.
There are two main factors that make bathrooms the #1 fall zone for seniors.
First we have the natural conditions of the room. Bathrooms are full of slippery surfaces, and visibility is often impaired by fog. Second, let’s look at the unique challenges an elderly person faces while maneuvering in this environment. Degraded eyesight, mobility, coordination, and strength are issues that play a role in making the bathroom especially hazardous for our elderly community.
Many of us may find ourselves at the point where we question if our loved one should be bathing unaccompanied for this very reason. This is a difficult and personal decision for each family or caretaker to take, however before we get to this point, there are many steps we can take to provide a safer environment for them.
- Number one on the list is grab bars. Grab bars are inexpensive, easy to install, and an absolute lifesaver. Install these bars to help your elderly loved one get in and out of the bathtub, and to assist them in sitting down on the toilet. The reality is that one moment of poor balance can lead to a lifetime of pain. Grab bars are a must-have for anyone dealing with poor balance or decreased coordination.
- Ideally a walk-in tub is the safest option, however until you are ready to make this investment, there are plenty of affordable alternatives. Non-slip bath mats are at the top of this list. Consider the benefits of a shower surface with better traction. For those with balance and coordination issues, a quality shower chair could be the next logical step. Shower chairs offer the independence of showering alone and a minimized risk of falling.
- Finally, an ergonomic shower caddy can eliminate the need for twisting and bending to reach toiletry items. Many caregivers find that shampoo and soap dispensers are ideal, because they remove clutter and can be hands-free.
Today there is a thriving industry of home safety products, and it can be overwhelming to choose the right ones for your home and budget. As caregivers (both professional and family members), it’s so important that we take these steps sooner rather than later. For around $100, you can equip your loved one's bathroom with two grab bars, a shower chair, a slip-proof bath mat and shower caddy. Depending on a client's unique circumstances, more may be needed, but this is a great place to start. Preventing accidents before they happen is key to ensuring the quality of life for those who depend on us to provide it.