Over half of senior falls happen in the bathroom
One in four seniors over the age of 65 have at least one fall per year, and half of those occur in the bathroom. National Bath Safety Month is an initiative to ensure all seniors have access to a safe bathroom.
What can a fall lead to?
More than three million older adults report going to the emergency room for injuries every year. These injuries range in level of seriousness. One out of five falls leads to a serious injury, like a broken bone or head injury. Seniors could break their wrist, arm, or ankle, or get a hip fracture. Head injuries can also occur and are even more dangerous if someone is taking a blood thinner.
If an older adult sustains an injury like a hip fracture, they may need major surgery like a hip replacement, which gets riskier with age. No matter what, injuries make it harder for them to get around and do their everyday activity.
If they know that their bathroom is unsafe, they could develop anxiety about moving around their house or going in their bathroom. This could lead to them limiting their daily activities, and their body growing weaker, which actually makes them more vulnerable to falling.
Why do so many seniors fall in the bathroom, and how can you avoid a fall?
There are many activities that older adults need their bathroom to do including bathing, daily hygiene, and using the toilet. Modern designs don’t always make the bathroom safe for older adults. Combine that with a broken or uneven floor, water on the floor, and throw rugs or towels that are easy to trip in, and there are many hazards.
There are also many effects of aging that make it harder to complete daily hygiene tasks, use the toilet and get in and out of the tub. Older adults could have weak lower bodies, foot pain, vision problems, or difficulty with balance.
Follow the tips below to make your bathroom safe for seniors:
Consult with your doctor
If you’re concerned about your bathroom for a loved one, ask your doctor for senior-friendly bathroom adaptations. They can also assess the older adult’s risk of falling. This includes a physical exam as well as a medicine review. If they take any sedatives or medications that make them dizzy, that is an increased risk.
Build up your strength
Older adults can do everything within their ability to stay strong. Depending on their activity level, this could include tai chi, physical therapy, or taking vitamin D supplements.
Get your eyes checked
This is another reason for older adults to regularly get their eyes checked. If their vision is blurry, they could step or lean in the wrong palace and fall. If they have bifocal lenses, be mindful that these lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.
Modify your bathroom
You can install a number of features to make your bathroom safer for seniors, including motion sensor lights, grab bars, an emergency call button, non-slip shower mats, and a shower bench.
Fall prevention exercises with physical therapist Lora Stutzman
Falls can have serious consequences, especially for older adults. While it’s not possible to completely prevent a fall, exercises that focus on balance and strength training can reduce the risk of falling. Physical therapist Lora Stutzman from the Johns Hopkins Rehabilitation Network demonstrates and explains several simple fall prevention exercises that can be done at home.