You know your home pretty well. But as we age, even the most familiar spaces unexpectedly can become challenges, especially if you’re becoming prone to falls and balance issues.
Even if you’re not experiencing health problems, falling on a hard surface when you’re in your 60s or 70s can affect your body differently than a similar accident in your 20s or 30s.
Of all the rooms in your house, the bathroom is the most likely site for an accident.
According to Consumer Affairs, a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that almost 200,000 Americans are treated in emergency departments for bathroom-related injuries annually. There are slippery surfaces and hard flooring. Consumer Affairs targets three areas where falls are most likely to occur: getting in or out of the shower or tub; trying to use sink tops or towel bars to support balance and sitting down and getting up from the toilet.
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Grab bars can greatly help reduce the risk of falls. What’s the harm in using a good ol’ towel bar? They aren’t made to withstand the weight and pressure from people grappling for something to steady themselves. They’re made to hold towels.
Grab bars, instead, are made for just that. Look for ones that are bolted into the wall (and when installing, make sure they are bolted into the studs for extra security), don’t blend into the background (for high visibility) and ones that don’t have a sleek, glossy finish (to be slip resistant). Fixture companies make attractive grab bars that can coordinate with the other fixtures in your bathroom, reducing the “clinical” look.
A shower chair looks like a stool with a slightly curved seat. Look for ones with rubber tips on the adjustable legs to prevent slipping. These help those who have balance problems in the shower.
For those who have difficulty getting in and out of the bathtub, consider a bath bench. The user sits on the bench outside the tub, then slides on the bench into the tub. A hand-held shower will allow the senior to stay seated while bathing.
Raised toilet seat
A raised toilet seat reduces the distance a senior has to lower himself or herself onto the toilet by 3 to 4 inches, making it much easier to sit down and stand up. Those grab bars mentioned above also can be installed on the wall by the toilet.
Here’s something you might not have considered. Consumer Affairs asks, does your bathroom door swing out or into the bathroom to open? If a senior falls against the door, an outward-opening door will let a caregiver or emergency personnel get to him or her.