Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Six Steps to a Safer Bathroom

Walk in Showers,
Safety can be Beautiful
You’ve seen signs that say “Beware of the Dog,” but have you ever seen one that says “Beware of the Bathroom?”  It sounds a little extreme, but in 2008 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that almost 22 million people over the age of 15 were injured in the bathroom.  In contrast, the CDC reports, a mere fraction of that number, 4.5 million, were bitten by dogs in 2009. 

The bathroom is considered the most dangerous room in the home. And while injuries span all age groups, people over 65 are most likely to end up with broken bones.

The CDC reports that many injuries could be prevented by making simple changes like adding grab bars .  So that got me thinking.  What else could be done? 

First, let’s look at how and where the CDC says the accidents are happening.  80%, of the injuries are from falling.  Whatever your age, the activities most hazardous to your health are:  bathing, showering, and getting in and out of the tub.  For older people there’s another bathroom hazard:  the toilet.  Over half the injuries to people 85 and over happen on or near the toilet.

Many people are simply unaware of the issues or what to do about them.  And ignorance isn’t bliss.  It’s dangerous. So here are six tips for bathroom safety, focusing on the main offenders: bathtubs, shower stalls and toilets.

Tip 1: Grab some Grab Bars. Never use the soap dish and towel rack as a grab bar.  They’re not strong enough.  Install the real thing by the bath, shower and toilet.  To be sure the grab bars are installed correctly, hire a professional.  Test them with a hard yank--make sure they don’t budge. 

Tip 2: Say No to Slippery Surfaces. Don’t be slip sliding away in the bathtub or shower stall.  Outfit both with a non-slip mat or non-slip strips.

Tip 3: Light it Up. Make sure the bathroom is well lit and always turn on the light. You might want to add a nightlight to illuminate those late night or early morning bathroom trips.

Tip 4: Make an Easy Entrance.  There are options to make it easier to get in and out of the bathtub.  You can install a walk-in bathtub.   This goes beyond being safe.  In a Jacuzzi bathtub, for example, users sit comfortably on the walk-in bath’s 17” high seat and enjoy the soothing benefits of a warm, hydrotherapy massage. Beyond your budget? Then simply add a tub cut and water-tight door to your existing bathtub.

Of course, easy access is not just for bathtubs.  Many people love to shower and a shower stall can be redesigned to eliminate the threshold, making walk-in and roll-in access to your shower stall easy.

Tip 5: Get a Lift.  Sometimes people need a little lift to get them going.  That’s why the Tush Push Toilet Seat was created.  It mimics a natural standing movement at the push of a button.  You’ve got to see this one!  And if you’re helping someone else, this can make your life so much easier.  Not to mention safer.  Plus, it can give them the privacy they deserve.

If you have a standard bathtub, you might want to add a bath lift.  These lifts gently raise and lower people to take them from the top of the tub down to 2.5” off the tub floor.

Tip 6: Sit it Out.  Why stand and risk falling when you could sit?  So install a shower chair or bench.  Then add a hand held shower to make showering even easier.

Please send me your feedback.  Goodbye for now…….

Have you or someone you cared for ever had an accident in the bathroom?  What do you do now to prevent someone from getting hurt?

What role do you think the occupational therapist play in making sure that the bathroom is safe for their clients?

What else do you want to learn more about in this blog?  If it helps people live, longer, happier lives in their own homes, we’ll be sure to get back to you on it.

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