Tour Your Bathroom to Prevent Trips, Slips, and Falls
Let's take a tour of your bathroom. What we are looking for are dangers that can cause people to trip, slip, and fall. Why worry? Because there are more than 2 million fall injuries treated in emergency departments and hospitals every year. In fact, one out of three adults aged 65 or more falls each year. For older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury.
The bathroom is a primary contributor to these fall statistics because it's a slippery place full of hard surfaces and sharp edges. So let's walk through your bathroom, see what potential problems there are, and learn about what actions you can take to prevent falls in the bathroom.
Let's start by opening the bathroom door. Does it open outward? It should because if it opens in to the bathroom and someone falls while in there, their body can be in a position to block the door so people can't get in to help. If you can't change your door so it opens outward, you should think about replacing it with a heavy curtain.
Now walk into the bathroom.
- Can you see everything clearly in the bathroom?
- Is there enough lighting so that people won’t bump into something, trip, and fall?
- Is there enough lighting so that when the bathtub or shower door or curtain is closed there is enough light to see clearly?
Remember, older eyes usually need more light to see. Not only should there be enough lighting to see during the day, but there should be a night light so that someone walking into the bathroom in the dark has at least enough light to find the light switch.
Continue your tour by looking down. The floor of the bathroom is a real danger zone for a number of reasons. Bathroom floors are notorious for being wet and easy to slip on. That's why people put rugs down on them. But people can slip on rugs just as easily as a wet floor. The solution is to have nonskid rugs on the bathroom floors. If you don't want to use a rug, install non-skid strips or put a liquid nonskid coating on the floor.
While you’re looking at the floor, you should also consider clutter. Items such as washrags, towels, and even baskets represent obstacles that someone can trip on. If someone is walking around the bathroom floor and bumps into something they don't expect to be there it can cause a fall. The easiest solution is to make sure the floor is as clear as possible.
And don’t forget the floors in the bathtub and shower. These get even wetter than the bathroom floor and are more dangerous for slipping and falling. Nonskid mats should be used in both of these.
Does your bathroom have a separate bathtub or tub shower combination? Notice how high the edge of the unit is. Standard heights are from 14 to 18 inches. An older person or someone with a temporary disability such as a broken leg could have trouble stepping over that edge.
If it's affordable, a walk in tub would be a great solution. But if that's too expensive you could look into a bath transfer bench. This is a seat that sits both outside and inside the tub. It allows someone to sit down outside the tub and move along the bench until they are in the tub. If it's a tub shower combination, the person can even sit on the bench while taking a shower.
Showers have shorter edges than bathtubs to step over to get into them, but users still need to be careful when entering the shower. Again, a shower transfer bench may be appropriate.
Once inside the shower, water is running much of the time, making it a treacherous place for slipping. A shower seat is the obvious solution. There are:
- Freestanding shower seats that can be moved in and out of the shower.
- Fold down shower seats that can be built into the shower wall.
- Built in shower benches that are attached along an entire shower wall.
No matter which one you choose, a shower seat will allow someone to sit comfortably while they are taking a shower, thus reducing the chances for slipping.
The other solution is grab bars. Anchored into the shower wall, they act as handgrips to help people keep their balance. There are grab bars that hold onto the wall with suction cups but use these with caution as they may be less able to support a lot of weight.
Grab bars should also be used on the walls of your bathtub as well as next to the toilet. Some people even use them instead of towel bars, which are not intended to prevent falls because they cannot hold much weight.
So go visit your bathroom. Inspect it from top to bottom looking for the tripping and falling dangers. Then take some action to prevent accidents from happening in your bathroom.
A Batroom Can be a Scary Place
And now, a video to remind you of how dangerous a bathroom can be -- especially in the movies!