For those of us providing in home care for an elderly loved one, safety is fairly constantly on our minds. We know that even a small fall, a fall that would be laughed off by a younger person can be devastating to many seniors. There are several factors that make a fall more dangerous for the elderly, including the fact that people who suffer from osteoporosis have a much greater risk of broken bones and many seniors take medications that make it difficult for them to stop bleeding. On top of the increased risk of injury, suffering from a fall makes the loss of independence much more likely, and no caregiver needs to be told how important that issue is to seniors.
There are several simple steps that we can each take to reduce the risk of a fall in the home, beginning with small things like removing clutter from pathways and packing away any throw rugs. When considering larger changes, we have to think about where the danger is greatest, and the most dangerous room in just about any home is the bathroom, with its hard, slick, tile and ceramic surfaces.
Recognizing the danger
For many years Americans have known or at least suspected the dangerous nature of our restrooms, but until recently there was no data to support our fears. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now begun to research this topic, and the numbers that they have published are staggering. Over two hundred and thirty thousand people were injured near their bathroom sink, shower, or toilet in 2008, and that is only taking into account non-fatal injuries. Around 80% of those incidents were due to falls, and the most common injuries were to the head or neck.
Of course, it is impossible to eliminate all risk, but there are certain steps you can take to improve bathroom safety in your home. Installing equipment such as grab bars and shower chairs will make slipping on a wet floor or tub less likely, or at least offer your loved ones an opportunity to catch themselves, and raised toilet seats will make it easier for the mobility impaired or those who have suffered a broken hip to get on and off the toilet without losing their balance. Speak to your family’s medical provider to learn more about the most common risks to your elderly loved ones and the steps you can take to protect them.
Jared Pennington is a freelance health writer who focuses more and more on elder care issues. He is currently taking steps to prepare his home to receive his aging parents, who he hopes will retain their independence for as long as possible. He currently writes for Just Home Medical which provide bathroom safety equipment to protect seniors everywhere.