One out of every three adults, over the age of 65, falls each year, and 20-30% of these falls result in moderate to severe injury. Among adults 65 and over, falls are responsible for 87% of all fractures, and are the leading cause of deaths due to injury. Hip fractures are the most serious type of fall-related injury, and can have a severe impact on quality of life. The average hip fracture requires 2 weeks in the hospital and extended care for months afterward. The cost of care for a hip fracture, including direct medical, family, and other assistive care, averages $16,000 to $18,000 in the first year. On a national scale, the annual cost for hip fractures alone, is expected to reach $32 billion by the year 2020.
Sixty percent of falls among older Americans occur at home, and by far most of these occur in the bathroom. Here slippery surfaces, tight spaces, and poor lighting can make it difficult to move around freely and safely. Fortunately there are a few simple steps that you can take to make your bathroom safer, allowing you to live more confidently and independently. Take a few minutes to look over your bathroom and see if it includes some of the following safety products that are all designed to work together to provide you a safe environment.
BATH AND SHOWER AREA. Start by making sure any potentially slippery surfaces, such as inside the tub or shower, are covered by a non-skid bath mat or abrasive strips. You should have one or two wall-mounted grab bars installed as well. These must be installed properly through the tile and into the wall framing by a qualified person. There are also a variety of bathtub grab bars available that clamp to the side of the tub to assist in getting into or out of the tub. A bath bench with a back allows you to bathe safely while sitting, and a transfer bench, the safest of all, allows you to sit down outside of the tub, and then slide over, eliminating the need to step over the side of the tub. A hand-held shower, with controls at your finger tips, is essential when using these seats. Also, Anti-scalding devices are available to stop the flow when the water gets too hot.
TOILET. A raised toilet seat raises the level of the seat by 3-5 inches, which allows for less stress on knees, legs, and back. Make sure the seat fastens securely to the toilet bowl. When using a raised toilet seat, the safest options are to combine it with either a toilet safety frame, or a raised seat equipped with arms.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS. Pay attention to lighting; use fluorescent lights for best visibility, and make sure there is a light switch near the bathroom door. Leave the light on at night, or use a plug-in night-light. Make sure all small appliances such as hair dryers, shavers, etc. are unplugged when not in use to reduce the risk of shock or fire. In addition, so that help can come if a fall occurs, be sure the door opens out towards the hall rather than into the bathroom, and use a lock that can be unlocked from either side.
Careway Wellness Center has a complete Bathroom Safety department, and a team of caring, qualified professionals who will recommend the appropriate solutions, and make sure that you understand their proper use.