Bathroom Safety: Caution! Slippery When Wet
Your Bathroom Can be Hazardous to Your Health
It's not uncommon to hear about someone who has slipped and fallen in the bathroom. Emergency Medical Technicians are called out on a regular basis to treat and attend to people who have fallen while bathing. Thankfully, most of the time the injuries are not fatal but they can be seriously debilitating especially when the person undergoes a severe contusion or bone fracture. Those most at risk are the elderly or those with balance problems, vertigo, impaired vision, tremors and muscle weakness. Falling is a significant issue among the elderly or infirm especially in the bathroom.
Think about the times you have gotten up in the middle of the night perhaps a bit disoriented, dizzy or drowzy. It happens. There are many who take medications or maybe have not hydrated themselves throughout the day. When we are not hydrated our electrolyte balance is thrown off which can result in vertigo or dizziness. In any of these situations we become more at risk for falling in the bathroom. When you add slippery floors to this scenario or weakness from a long standing illness the risk for falling greatly increases.
Consider how many of us are having to step in and give more assistance to our parents or grandparents to make sure their living environment is safe and helps them to remain independent for as long as possible. This means going in to make sure their bathrooms are safe.
When I worked in Home Health Therapy services here is what I often recommended and would like to share with you:
For bathrooms with a combination shower/tub set-up consider:
1. Strategically placed grab bars to assist when getting in or out of the tub or getting on and off the toilet.. There are some that actually clip on the edge of the tub. Don't scrimp here. Get the best quality you can find. Ask others what they have used. They are easy to find now in any medical supply store or pharmacy and most comes with good instuctions for mounting.
2. Use of an adjustable shower bench or chair. A shower bench will extend out over the edge of the tub making it possible to sit and slide in rather than step over the tub edge. Add a hand held shower device to use in combination with a shower bench or chair that is mounted within easy reach. Position items to avoid over-reach and prevent user from becoming off balance.
3. Use rubber bath mat or stick ons. (Some tubs and shower inserts come with textured floor surfaces).
4. Consider the use of non-skid mesh shower slippers that you actually wear into the tub or shower. Tres chic!
5. Use long-handled sponges or brushes to scrub the feet or back. This will prevent awkward positioning while on wet surfaces. Sit down when shaving legs. No balancing acts.
In regards to a general bathroom environment:
1. Use non-slip rugs or mats and keep to a minimum. Remove rugs which bunch up and could be tripped over. Stick with non-slip rugs which lay flat and have a very short pile made specifically for the bathroom. Don't use towels as a substitute for a bonified bath mat!!!
2. Evaluate the need for a grab bar next to the toilet. For those with muscle weakness it helps to have something to pull up on or to assist with balance while manipulating clothing.
3. Make sure the lighting is good. Nice and bright. You want to be able to see that great smile in the mirror.
4. Use an exhaust fan that will prevent steam build-up. A quiet one is nice too especially when you are trying to communicate with someone.
So get in there and do some pre-planning to prevent accidents. Promote a safe spa-like experience for you and your loved ones.
* This article pertains to the adult population. Bathroom safety for children would include several additional considerations.