Is your bathroom full of potential life threatening hazards? Consider the hard surfaces (toilet, bathtub, counter, towel racks) that can deliver swift blows on the way down from a fall. Or, the loose throw rugs that make that room so cozy…and so deadly when feet get tangled in them. Falls account for nearly 6,000 deaths each year and 5.1 million injuries. It takes a split second, a misjudged step, a few drops of water on the floor, or many other combination’s to set in motion this potentially life altering event.
Showers and the elderly or disabled can mean squeaky clean or surely injured if care is not taken to ensure safety. One fall can cause a downward spiral for quality of life and independence. To avoid becoming one of nearly 5.1 million who are injured in falls, take action on the following 10 safety tips. Everyone will benefit.
Safety Tip #1
Water tends to stick around for a while even in dangerous places. You MUST have a bath mat outside your shower. Safety grid or rubber brush mats provide secure traction on wet surfaces, are stiffer than the pretty throw rug and safer with walker use.
Safety Tip #2
Glass can be just as deadly as water. Many bathtubs have sliding glass doors. Remove these (and the frame which can catch fragile toes) and replace them with a shower curtain rod and shower curtain. There are several reasons for this, most importantly, the danger of cuts, bleeding and potential death from falling into that glass.
Safety Tip #3
When balance and strength are an issue, a tub transfer bench eliminates stepping in and out and allows easy access from the seated position at all times. This will not work with glass doors or in a shower-only stall. Tub transfer benches are NOT shower or tub chairs, which fit entirely inside the tub or shower.
Safety Tip #4
Today’s economy is pressing money saving measures from every angle. Medical equipment does not have to be the exception. Your most basic shower bench or bathtub chair will be the cheapest. Prices climb, though, when you add a back, arm holds and other accessories. (Remember Medicare considers the entire set up a luxury — exception being a 3-in-one bedside commode.) Skip the entire cost by using a plastic patio chair! You likely have one, with a back and arms too!
Safety Tip #5
No matter what type of bench or chair you use, ALWAYS use a no-slip mat as well. This mat MUST contain each leg of your chair or bench (inside the tub) especially if you are using a plastic patio chair. Sitting height is not adjustable on a patio chair tending towards more pressure against the slippery floor to try and stand. Use caution and grab bars.
Safety Tip #6
Diagonal Grab Bar placement should be avoided. Rule of thumb follows that for pulling up from a seated position place the bar horizontally. For stepping in and out assistance place the bar vertically. Diagonal placements can allow frail hands to slip downward on the very aid that was designed to help. Smart placement is the key.
Safety Tip #7
Built-in shower seats look good in a picture but can become a water slide in reality. Simply place a folded towel on this surface to provide more traction. Yes, the towel gets wet and yes, it pads a frail bottom and yes, your loved ones will thank you for that.
Safety Tip #8
Suction Cup grab bars are great! BUT… if you need moderate assistance to get in and out of the tub, stick with an installed grab bar. Suction cup bars are not fail proof and can pull the tile off a wall given the proper load. However, no tools are necessary to set up, they are completely portable and boast flexible position changing as needed.
Safety Tip #9
Do not trust your safety to the shower curtain rod, the towel rack or the washcloth rack in the shower. These were designed to hold a wet towel at the most… and every one needing grab bar assistance weighs more than a wet towel. Keep in mind, though, that when building or modifying for safety, installed grab bars make nice towel racks and can then double in purpose.
Safety Tip #10
Consider the health giving effects of a shower, even sitting on a bench. Water of various temperatures on the body can be calming, soothing and healing far more than we realize. Your safety is number one. Protect your health as well. Be persistent in gaining the strength, balance and mobility needed to enjoy this health giving aspect of life.
More than 70% of all falls in a home happen in the bathroom making it one of the most feared rooms of the house. However, the necessity of the bathroom remains. Move forward with caution and confidence with these 10 Safety tips.