The old Bobby Darin hit “Splish, Splash” made a bathroom sound fun.
There was a-splishin’ and a-splashin’
Reelin’ with the feelin’
Movin’ and a-groovin’
Rockin’ and a-rollin’, yeah, yeah
For many of us, the “movin’-and-a-groovin’” is a little more dangerous the older we get and we hope “a splishin’ and a-splashin’” isn’t from a fall in the tub, because if it is we really will be “reelin’ with the feelin’”. The scary facts are; more than one in three seniors over age 65 fall each year, and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says 80 percent of these falls are in the bathroom. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.6 million older adults seek emergency care each year for fall-related injuries, fractures or head trauma. In addition to potentially losing their independence, seniors 65 years old and up have a 25 percent chance of dying within six months to a year if they fall and break a hip. Knowing how to get in and out of tubs and showers properly and equipping homes with necessary safety precautions can reduce senior falls, keep you out of the emergency room and possibly extend your life.
Here are some tips to keeping you safe in the bathroom:
- Make sure you have good lighting, including making sure you have a good nightlight installed.
- Remove floor rugs that tend to move around. If you want to have rugs or mats, make sure that they don’t move around and the edges lay flat. Also make sure that they are not unnecessarily “fluffy”.
- Make sure the hot and cold knobs are clearly marked and consider having an anti-scald valve installed.
- Never use toilet paper holders, towel racks or wall mounted sinks for supporting one’s weight.
- Remove tub doors and install a shower curtain instead. Tub doors prevent easy entry into the tub.
Some great additions to help you navigate the bathroom include:
- Use rubber suction-grip mat, adhesive strips or anti-slip tub surface material to prevent slipping in the tub.
- Install grab bars or balance assist bars on tub side or shower wall and on the wall where extra support is needed around the toilet area. Permanently installed, as well as removable clamp-on models are available.
- Consider purchasing a floor-to-ceiling vertical rod sometimes referred to as a safety pole that is easy to remove or relocate for use in strategic locations where extra support is needed. The Stander Safety Pole with or without the Curve Grab bar is a great item for support.
- Purchase a bathtub or shower seat made of sturdy blow molded plastic or padded vinyl for added comfort if preferred for those with poor standing balance or general weakness. They are available with or without backs, height adjustments, and heavy-duty models to accommodate greater weight capacities and slip-resistant rubber feet or foldaway portable models.
- Add hand held shower sprays for the user’s convenience to help control water flow when seated on bath chairs and transfer benches. They easily attach to your existing shower arm, or can be attached with a diverter valve and used in conjunction with the existing showerhead for other family members.
- Install a raised toilet or a raised toilet seat when the standard toilet is too low for those who have trouble getting up and down, bending or sitting.
- Consider changing the bathtub so that entering the bathtub is easier.
Earlier in the article I mentioned that knowing how to get in and out of tubs and showers properly is one of the most important factors to reducing falls in the bathroom. But, what do you do if you can’t easily lift your leg over the tub to get in and out? What are the options for changing the bathtub? The options range from inexpensive to expensive and from quick to days or weeks.
The first and least expensive is using a shower transfer bench. These are not very expensive and easy to install. One problem with them is you still need to have some flexibility and strength to get your legs over the tub lip. A shower transfer bench will run from about $100.00 to $400.00.
A second option is modifying your existing tub with a product like Safeway Step and Safety Tub Door. This moderately priced item ranging from $895.00 for the Safeway Step® or $1495.00 for the Safeway Tub Door®. These can be installed in a day and used almost right away.
A third and more expensive option is installing a walk-in tub or shower. These require at least a couple of days to install and many times much longer. Walk-in tubs and showers normally cost $3000 to $10,000. There are options for every budget.