Safety railings and grab bars are a must when it comes to bathroom safety for the elderly. Grab bars and safety railings are available for the toilet, bathtub and shower. The toilet support bars are placed on both sides of the toilet to provide assistance and support for entering and leaving the toilet. While the CDC study focused on non-fatal injuries, other studies have shown that falls that cause hip or pelvic fractures in women over 50 have a higher risk of death than breast, uterine and ovarian cancer combined.
Thirty percent of older people will die within one year of these injuries, and 40 to 60% will not recover their previous level of mobility. Adding grab bars and making a few more changes to the bathroom can reduce the risk of falls and injuries and allow more people to choose to age in place. Many older people already wanted to stay in their own homes, but the election gained popularity during the pandemic, as people saw the impact that COVID-19 had on people living in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Many centers faced high mortality rates from the virus, and most communities enacted restrictions to protect residents who also left them isolated for more than a year.
Washbasins are available that function as grab bars with cut-out holes that also help prevent falls (example above). Adding railings to the walls that lead to the bathroom and to the bathroom itself ensures that wherever the person is standing, there is a grab bar or handrail they can use. As we age and mobility decreases, falls become a leading cause of serious injury. The CDC says the bathroom is the most dangerous place in the house, especially for adults 65 and older, 1,2 There are different types of grab bars, but you should choose the substance rather than the style.
AARP recommends a bar that can hold up to 250 pounds, with a textured surface and a diameter of 1.25 to 1.5 inches for easy grip. 3 The toilet is also an area where older adults are prone to falling. This is because it can be difficult to get up or down from the low toilet seats if you have mobility problems or arthritis. 4 Depending on the weather, it is also recommended to lower the water heater to 120 degrees to avoid accidental burns.
Fortunately, there are a number of new bathroom design features that can make it a much safer and more welcoming place for older people. From toilets with bidets and walk-in bathtubs to curbless showers, grab bars and faucets with motion sensors, there are a host of new products that can make life in the bathroom easier. Because many bathroom accidents involve slipping in and around the bathtub or shower, a bench or bath chair is recommended as a safety measure. Probably the quickest and easiest way to make a bathroom safer is to ensure that all the products and items needed during a bathroom visit are easily accessible.
January is National Bathroom Safety Month, so now is a good time to consider how you can make changes to your bathroom to reduce potential hazards. Using bath mats can add that extra warm and cozy feeling when you get out of the shower or bathtub, but they're also one of the most dangerous elements in the bathroom. Evaluate the individual requirements of older bathroom users and make plans to replace or remodel areas that pose a potential hazard. Fortunately, if you're remodeling to accommodate older family members or if you're trying to help an older person who is still living alone, improving bathroom safety isn't a difficult solution.
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