January is recognized as National Bath Safety Month and it’s time to bone up. Since I am forever lured by a catchy headlines I found this topic did not disappoint:
Danger Lurks In Your Bathroom!
The smallest room in the house can be a dangerous place.
Watch Your Step While Washing Up
Think the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house? Think again!
Bathrooms can be dangerous to your bones.
Neat, huh? Aside from headings the information proved valuable. We can change the way we look at our homes, beginning with acknowledging that our homes are our tools.
Yes, danger lurks in the bathroom alright, but it’s not the awful germs and scum that the scrubbing bubbles-corporations would have us imagine. It’s you and I and our tool, which is the home in which we live.
A little reading unveiled real safety concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom. That’s an average of 640 people in the United States per day who are injured in their bathrooms. Almost 14 percent are hospitalized, and it made sense to me that the CDC and others would collect much of their data from ED’s (Emergency Departments).
Approximately 80% of all bathroom injuries were caused by falls, with the highest injury rates in the oldest age groups. One-third of senior adults in the study (aged 65 and older) sustained fractures from these bathroom falls often causing serious injuries such as hip fractures, attributed in part to osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones porous and susceptible to fracture. Older adults who had the highest fracture rates were hospitalized most often.
More than a third of the injuries happen while bathing or showering. Mmm Hmm, water, scorching, soapy, standing, slippery, electrocution…
More than 14 percent occur while using the toilet: standing up, sitting down, or using it. (About 9% of the total injuries were from overexertion. Turns out it has to do with body strength or meds! Read on.)
Overall injury rates are higher among women than men. Regular gender studies consistently have shown that women are at higher risk than men for falling and for sustaining fall-related injuries. This difference might be related to gender differences in lower-body strength, bone mass, circumstances surrounding the fall, or willingness to seek medical treatment. (Studies relay that women are more likely to seek treatment after an accident, while men tend to ignore the injury so as to avoid embarrassment).
Fainting can also be a factor. Standing after prolonged sitting also can result in postural hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure that causes light-headedness or dizziness. Postural hypotension may be caused by dehydration or as a side effect of medication, both of which are known risk factors for falls.
Knowing our own risks for hypotension can reduce injuries by standing up slowly. Installing (and using) grab bars near the toilet would provide an additional measure of safety. Remembering fall prevention strategies for senior adults such as exercises to improve strength and balance, a medication review and modification by a health-care provider are fundamental.
And I hadn’t thought of this factor. The heading read “Have Your Eyes Checked,” pointing out that our vision is an important factor in balance. The combination of eyesight working with our inner ear sends signals to our brain and subsequently to our joints and muscles.
The CDC notes that overall the risk of injury from falling down in the bathroom increases with age. To that I would add that the negative results of falling are not only physical in nature but also can be emotional, financial, traumatic and familial in impact. They are glaring indicators that change in the bathroom is (was) needed for senior care. This topic bears all the scrutiny.
Senior Care 101: Prevent Bathroom Falls
I believe we can safely agree (pun intended) that preventing falls and subsequent injuries in our older, vulnerable population is imperative. So what are experts trying to convey? Toward what conclusions and action are they propelling us? Let’s perform our own inventory, shall we?
CHALLENGE: Simply go into your bathroom right now and take a hard look. Could you access it using a walker or wheelchair? If you were in a wheelchair or using a rollator (even temporarily, maybe because you had fallen?), could you maneuver, pivot and turn to exit? Can you be seated and rise from the toilet and then get to the sink to brush your teeth? Can you reach the faucet handles and see the mirror? Whatever the design, are you able to get in and out of your shower? This critical eye may not just for your own benefit; how about the others, particularly seniors, in your life? And how about over time (think the Long View)? Five years? 10 years?
Is your home, your tool, serving you? What can you do to plan and take action? Now that the cat is out of the bag (in other words, once you know you can’t not know), what simple things can you do to serve yourself and others?
The first two you already have underway! (1)You are reading an article about safety and you likely value the information. (2) You may simply stroll into your bathroom and quickly evaluate it, twice. Once from from the “Now” point of view, and then for the Long View. Next contemplate remedy. Do you need more information about options for safety? Do you know where to find someone to modify your bathroom? Do you know how to determine a good contractor fit, credential them and negotiate the job? Where might you find a shower bench or seat? Where are the best places nearby to get a hand-held shower head or bathtub safety rail, and who will install them?
Before this begins sounding like work or even approaches “whelm” (the point just before overwhelm and a decision not to do what we know we ought to) here is the simplest option of all:
This is an opportunity to ‘Have The Conversation’ (we just love to advance the notion of ‘Having The Conversation’). Ask a relative or neighbor about their thoughts, experience, have they made/could they make any changes for Senior Care and safety? Make this a safety and care management conversation with your Advocate, family or caregiver, and make it a priority for yourself.
So talk, read, learn a little something. Devise a project. Who better to invest in than you and your loved ones? Who then will have a better Long View and will become better served by this tool we call our home?
Is your bathroom (your house, your tool) serving you, and will it for the Long View? NAVIGATE NC helps families ‘Have The Conversation’ about safety, environment and more. Together we will navigate the challenges that normally come with aging or with chronic condition. To schedule a free Initial Consultation call us at (919) 628.4428 or CONNECT WITH US through our website. Safety. Planning. Power.
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