You’ve probably seen the ads or heard the now-famous “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” line. You probably also know that falls become more common with age. However, most commercials would have you believe that injuries occur on stairs and this is often untrue.
Stairs do pose a hazard, but injuries suffered in the bathroom send hundreds of thousands of people to the emergency room every year. Many are hospitalized, and the likelihood of these injuries only increases with age. In fact, bathroom injuries peak after age 85. It may surprise you to know that bathtub and shower injuries are the least common in this age group. More than half of injuries in people 85 and older occur near the toilet. Getting on and off the toilet can be difficult, so it’s important to guard against these dangers. Most often this leads to injury in people over 65. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to make your bathroom a safer place to be.
1. Get some traction.
If you have the budget to spend, you can start by installing safer, nonslip tiles in your bathroom. Instead of big, smooth tiles, which can be extremely slippery when wet, choose something smaller. A floor with lots of grout lines is easier to walk on with bare feet. Make sure any rug you place outside of the shower also has a rubberized backing. Not only do you not want it to slide around, you don’t want it to fold and crease, either.
2. Hold on.
Grab bars make getting into the shower or tub safer and easier. Since so many injuries occur near the toilet, you may want to consider installing a grab bar there, too. Plus, your grab bars don’t have to look sterile and institutional. These days, you can easily find more stylish finishes. A taller toilet can also help make the bathroom safer, as they are less difficult to sit on and get up from.
3. Light the way.
Many seniors live with some sort of visual impairment that makes it difficult to navigate their homes in the dark. Even if you aren’t visually impaired, this can still be very difficult! Try adding strategic lights to your hallways and bathroom to guide the way and prevent tripping hazards. If you’re worried about saving electricity, you can always get a motion-sensitive nightlight that turns on when you approach it. You can even get these for your toilet, so you know exactly where to sit! This can also help reduce the risk of injury. (Plus, these lights come with an air freshener to keep your bathroom smelling great.)
4. Fix potential problems before they’re problems.
Some problems only take a moment to fix. Always make sure to unplug any appliance near a water source when you are finished using it. This can prevent electrical shock. Also wipe up splashes or puddles when they happen to prevent slips and falls.