Safety measures can help reduce bathroom injuries
Falls cause many injuries inside a home. Seniors are especially susceptible to harmful falls in the bathroom, where slippery tiles can prove too difficult for older men and women to navigate.
A 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 234,000 Americans ages 15 and older were treated in an emergency department for nonfatal bathroom-related injuries in 2008. That adds up to roughly 640 people per day. More than 80 percent of bathroom-related injuries were caused by slips and falls, mostly while getting in and out of the tub or shower, and about 30 percent of those injuries included cuts, scrapes and bruises.
Bathrooms can be more dangerous than other rooms of the house for a variety of reasons. The bathroom is generally comprised of hard surfaces that can become slippery when wet or exposed to high humidity. A bathroom may become hotter than other rooms because of the steam that accompanies a hot shower. Heat may dilate peripheral veins and lower blood pressure in some people. This may lead to dizziness that can result in falls. Furthermore, people tend to rush in the bathroom as they get ready for work or school. Rushing around can lead to slips and injuries on wet surfaces.
Installing safety features in the bathroom is a key way to reduce the risk of accidents. Many manufacturers have even designed these features so they blend with bathroom decor.
When renovating bathrooms for safety, consider the following options.
Anti-scald features: Burns can be serious business. Few people have been spared the momentary burst of hot water that occurs in the shower or at the faucet when another household member flushes a toilet or uses a large amount of cold water elsewhere in the house. Anti-scald showerheads and faucets prevent sudden bursts of hot water. Use in conjunction with turning down the temperature of the hot water heater to eliminate burns.
Nonslip mats: Bathroom injuries often occur when people are getting in and out of the shower. Having a non-slip mat on the inside of the shower or tub as well as one with a grippable surface and plush top layer on which to step after exiting the shower can reduce falls. Don't step out of the shower onto a flimsy towel that can slip out from underneath your feet.
Bath bench: The elderly or those prone to lightheadedness in the shower may want to invest in a bench or seat to put into the shower. This enables sitting while washing.
Safety bars: It can be tempting to grab onto towel racks or faucets to get in and out of the shower, but these items cannot provide the necessary leverage to safely move in and out of the shower or bathtub. Safety bars with a brushed surface for traction are more secure. Grab bars need to be securely attached to a wood stud in the wall and not into drywall or the tub enclosure.
Raised toilet seat: A raised toilet seat reduces the amount of squatting and the distance that has to be covered to sit on the commode. Grab bars on the raised seat itself will provide added safety.
Telephone: The bathroom may seem an odd place to install a telephone, but having one nearby in the event of injury can ensure help gets to the injured party much more quickly.
Regular cleaning: Routinely ridding showers and tubs of soap scum and mildew can reduce the slippery coating that forms as a result of these substances. Also, be sure to keep clutter in the bathroom to a minimum to stop trips and falls over errant items in the area.
Bathrooms can present many dangers, but certain safety tools and renovations can help reduce the risk of injury.