The single most important thing we can do as we age is to avoid a fall. “Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls the leading cause of injury and death in this age group. 1 in 4 adults will fall each year in the United States, making falls a public health concern, particularly among the aging population.” Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls | CDC. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in people aged 65 and older. Falls, however, are not a normal part of aging. Thankfully, there is a lot we can do to help prevent a fall. Here is a list of the top 4 things you can do to reduce your fall risk today:
- Have your healthcare provider review your medicines.
- Exercise to improve your balance and strength.
- Have your eyes and feet checked.
- Make your home safer.
This article will focus on simple changes you can make to your home, and more specifically your bathroom, to ensure you can age-in-place safely. More than three quarters of falls happen in the home. The bathroom is often the main culprit. By adding low cost equipment such as grab bars, removing throw rugs and replacing them with a non-skid mat, and installing additional lighting, your risk for falls can significantly be reduced without breaking the bank. Of course, there are more involved options such as replacing a tub with a walk-in or, preferably, a curbless shower, replacing your old toilet with an ADA or comfort height toilet, or even replacing old flooring with low maintenance, non-skid materials. Depending on what your budget allows, making changes in the bathroom is almost always necessary as we age, to increase safety and extend our level of independence for as long as possible. Independence will afford us the opportunity to remain in our homes and limit the cost of hired help or the need to rely on friends and family for assistance. Some examples of low cost equipment include:
- Shower Chair: Provides increased safety to shower in a seated position as opposed to standing.
- Tub Transfer Bench: Perfect for transferring into a tub while in a seated position eliminating the need to step over a threshold.
- 3 in 1 Commode: Automatically adjusts the height of your toilet and has a safety frame built into the design. This option also comes in a bariatric size and is portable so it can be used over the toilet or bedside. Easy to clean.
- Grab bars: Install grab bars in the shower or by the toilet or along a wall. Make sure to use grab bars that are textured if being installed in a wet area.
- Swing-away grab bars: Heavy Duty, “U” shaped grab bar that is installed on each side of the toilet, providing greater stability for toilet transfers.
- Offset Hinges for Doors: Allows for doors to extend further, widening the doorway for use with a walker or wheelchair.
- Hand Held Shower Hose: Great for use while seated on a shower chair for bathing tasks.
- Suction cup shelves for toiletries: Great for adding storage at eye or shoulder level where it doesn’t exist. Tip: use travel size containers to store shampoo and body wash avoiding large, heavy, and clumsy containers that can easily slip and drop on your foot. Added benefit- no need to store items on the tub/shower floor anymore, further reducing your fall risk.
- Shower Curtain: You may not want to hear this, but glass shower doors are a BIG fall hazard. Replace shower doors with a shower curtain. It is much safer and increases access to the entrance of the shower/tub.
Please read our next Blog to learn more about structural changes you can make to your bathroom to increase safety, accessibility, and comfort. Oh….and let’s also make it more beautiful than it was, thereby increasing our home value and independence all at the same time.
For more useful tips on preventing falls and making your home safer, please check out this handy guide created by the CDC and STEADI: https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-Brochure-WhatYouCanDo-508.pdf