Bathroom Slips And Falls Are Top Causes Of Injuries For The Elderly
We all use the bathroom every day. It’s the place where we all freshen up and get ready for our days each morning. The commonplace and often mundane acts of brushing our teeth, washing our faces, and combing our hair all take place in the bathroom. Of course, showering is another bathroom activity that we all take for granted as a regular everyday task. With the regularity of our bathroom visits, most of us assume that there is never a reason for concern in the small room.
And yet, statistics show that the bathroom can be the most dangerous room within the home. As Nicholas Bakalar reports for the New York Times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that each year, approximately 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries they suffered in the bathroom. About 14 percent of these individuals are hospitalized.
There Are Many Different Factors That Lead to Falls in the Bathroom
Among them are age-related issues like muscle weakness in the legs. This is why many seniors make use of such walking aids as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. Naturally, a wheelchair user will have to get out of his/her wheelchair to properly use the bathroom. Most homes don’t have bathrooms that are designed in ways to allow wheelchairs to enter. As a result, many seniors are susceptible to losing their balance while using the facilities.
“Lower body weakness, limited mobility or difficulty with walking and balance, and vitamin D deficiencies all make seniors more susceptible to slipping and falling,” says SeniorCaring.com, “Another aspect of aging that may increase the likelihood of falling is medication. Sedatives and antidepressants can create problems with balance, causing a senior to fall.”
Injuries Increase with Age
Of all of those injuries, approximately; two-thirds occur during bathing or showering. And, as you may have guessed, the older we get, the more likely we are to incur such injuries. “Injuries increase with age, peaking after 85, the researchers found,” informs Bakalar, who goes on to note that problems with getting on and off the toilet seem to be a common cause of injury among the elderly.
Covering the same CDC report in the Los Angeles Times, Marissa Cevallos highlights the fact that the vast majority of injuries in the bathroom (81 percent, to be exact) occur because of slips and falls. Pointing to the slippery nature of bathroom surfaces, she notes that it’s no surprise that the bathroom can be a dangerous place. Interestingly, Cevallos also highlights that the CDC’s findings included the fact that women were more likely to be hurt than men.
For Seniors, Any Slip and Fall Is a Major Concern
As reported by the National Safety Council, every 20 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall, and many more are injured. This information comes courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also reveals that 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments each year for fall injuries, and more than 800,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of injuries due to a fall. Most often, it’s because of a head injury or hip fracture.
Needless to say, protecting the older adult in your home from slipping and falling in the bathroom is of paramount importance. As the National Safety Council informs us, “because the aging process can affect vision, strength, and balance, adults 65 and older are at elevated risk for falls.” So what can you do to safeguard your bathroom?
Safety Precautions Can Reduce Senior Falls
NewsUSA confirmed similar results found by a National Institute on Aging (NIA) study. Also citing slippery surfaces as a culprit, researchers determined that more than a third of seniors over the age of 65 slip and fall each year – 80 percent of those falls occur in the bathroom. “Knowing how to get in and out of tubs and showers properly and equipping homes with necessary safety precautions can reduce senior falls, keep them out of the emergency room and possibly extend their lives,” they remark on their website.
NewsUSA also cites research from the CDC that reveals that “1.6 million older adults seek emergency care each year for fall-related injuries, fractures or head trauma. In addition to potentially losing their independence, seniors 65 years old and up have a 25 percent chance of dying within six months to a year if they fall and break a hip.” The website lists a number of preventative measures to take, including installing grab bars, non-slip rubber mats, and bright lights in bathrooms.
Putting A Stop To Slips And Falls In The Bathroom
Most bathroom floors are pretty slippery, even when they’re not wet. This makes the bathroom a place where slips and falls often occur.
There are, of course, some steps that can be taken to put a stop to slips and falls in the bathroom.
Bathroom Safety Starts with Clearing the Floor
“Remove all clutter such as plants, hampers, and trash baskets that might make it difficult for seniors to navigate this sometimes small and restricted area,” advises Griswold Home Care, “This includes rugs since even those with non-slip backing can present an obstacle for seniors. If you have linoleum flooring, consider replacing it with wall-to-wall carpeting or textured tile.”
Place Non-slip Mats on the Floor
To address the slippery surface problem, it’s wise to add non-slip mats to your bathroom floor. This will provide users with some much-needed traction for their feet to grip onto. Throw rugs are the opposite of non-slip mats. They should, in fact, be removed from any and all floors in the home. Throw rugs are known to bunch up and become tripping hazards.
“Numerous falls are brought about by slippery surfaces,” affirms Kerovit.com, “In order to prevent slips, it is prompted that you introduce non-slip surfaces on the floor of your bathroom. Non-slip decals ought to likewise be applied to bathroom tiles, which can be similarly dangerous as the tub when wet. Remove rugs or mats on which one can stumble upon and slip.”
Brightly Illuminate the Bathroom
The importance of good lighting should not be underestimated. It’s practically impossible to trip over something you can clearly see. Be mindful that, for many elderly adults, vision impairment is an issue. Ensure that your bathroom is brightly illuminated so that everyone can clearly see what is in front of them on the floor. As Brian O. Sutter of Florida’s All Injuries Law Firm notes, this is especially important at night.
“Make sure that your bathroom lighting is adequately bright enough for your daily needs,” he writes, “Additionally, you may want to use a nightlight or install an illuminated switch in order to make the bathroom easier to find in the middle of the night. Some even use glow-in-the-dark stickers or markings to create an easy-to-see path from the bedroom to the bathroom.”
Keep the Bathroom as Dry as Possible
After a hot shower, we’re prone to seeing condensation on the mirrors. That moisture is on the floors too. Be sure to wipe your floors down after each shower. Given all of the water, we can access in a bathroom, it’s also vital to quickly clean up any spills. The drier your bathroom surfaces are, the less likely someone will slip and fall while in there.
“Whenever one takes a bath or uses the bathroom, they need to ensure that the bathroom is left neat and dry,” insists Kerovit.com, “You can ensure the bathroom is dry by using a wiper to wipe all the water. You can even put a shower curtain so that the water from the shower doesn’t come to the toilet or basin side. Use rugs in order to soak the water.”
Grab Bars are also Highly Recommended
Because so many seniors have balance issues, it is wise to place grab bars in the bathroom. These are not to be confused with towel racks which don’t have the ability to support the weight of an average adult. A grab bar, as its name implies, gives a bathroom user something to hold on to in order to maintain balance. Grab bars can be installed both inside and outside of the shower area.
How To Protect Seniors From Injury-Inducing Slips And Falls
It is an understatement to say that falls shouldn’t be taken lightly. They induce injuries far worse than we may assume. For seniors, fall prevention is vital. So what can be done to protect seniors from injury-inducing slips and falls?
Unfortunately, with older age often comes the dependency on medications to live a comfortable life. Many medications, of course, can have side effects. As NurseNextDoor.com notes, among those side effects may be dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, weakness or an urgency to get to the bathroom. All of the above can cause a senior to take a tumble.
“The more medications you take, the higher your risk of falling,” the website reminds us, “When you take multiple medications, it increases your chance of side effects. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects that you notice with your medications.”
Stand Up Slowly
This tip is so incredibly simple, you may assume it doesn’t belong on this list. However, it needs to be stated that sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest differences. Take your time. That’s a mantra that older adults should practice when doing just about anything. When it comes to rising from a seated position, this rule certainly applies. Standing up too fast can cause light-headedness and fainting.
“Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop,” affirms the National Institute On Aging, “That can make you feel wobbly. Get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.”
Naturally, seniors are cautioned against any strenuous activity. Lifting heavy weights, for example, is not on any list of recommendations for older adults. However, light exercise is a definite must. Keeping active promotes blood circulation and better overall health. But it also increases strength and balance – two key factors in the staying upright game!
“Regular exercise that focuses on flexibility, strength training, and balance can help keep your muscles strong,” says NurseNextDoor.com, “You are more likely to have flexible joints, tendons, and ligaments. When you stumble, you will be more likely to catch yourself. Exercise also keeps your bones stronger and reduces your risk of osteoporosis.”
Avoid the Traditional Shower
At Forward Day, we’re committed to helping older adults avoid injury-inducing slips and falls. We’re proud of the fact that our Shower Bay portable showers eliminate the need for traditional showers. They help those who are unsteady on their feet to completely avoid slips and falls while bathing.
Shower Bay can help your elderly loved one to enjoy a warm shower with running water without having to use the bathroom. It can be snapped together in any room of the home where there is a faucet nearby! For more information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-877-593-4461 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Published on: Apr 4, 2017
Updated: Mar 8, 2023