Fall prevention is a serious issue for seniors who want to remain at home and live independently as long as possible. Each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three seniors over the age of 65 experiences a fall. Falls, in fact, are a leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries.
Many at-home falls occur in the bathroom. Adaptive devices, many of which are available at plumbing supply or hardware stores, can aid in fall prevention.
Here are some tips from the Office on Women’s Health, US Department on Health and Human Services:
- Falls can occur anywhere water is likely to pool. Identify those areas and install nonslip strips or suction mats, both inside and outside the tub.
- Install a nightlight in the bathroom. You will be able to see more clearly after dark, which helps minimize your risk of tripping.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences offers further suggestions:
- Consider an adjustable tub seat for seniors who are less mobile. A hand-held shower head should be used in conjunction with a tub seat. Be sure that the legs of tub seats have rubber tips to prevent the seat from sliding.
- For seniors with hip, knee, or back pain, or who experience arthritis pain, a raised toilet seat will provide better leverage. A molded plastic seat placed on top of the existing toilet seat will add four inches in height, which should be a sufficient additition to the standard 15 or so inches of a standard toilet. A plumber can install a more permanent wooden platform at the floor level. If a new home or bathroom is being built, a wall-mounted toilet can be installed at any height.
- Use grab bars beside the toilet, and inside and outside of the tub, at the standing- and sitting-level positions. They should be made of stainless steel and installed according to manufacturer recommendations. Towel bars and doorknobs are not sturdy, long-term solutions, as both will give way under repeated stress. Do not use diagonal grab bars, as your hands may slip when they’re wet.
Bathroom fall prevention can be as easy as a trip to the plumbing supply or hardware store. For assistance in installation of devices, you may want to consult with a carpenter.