Help Seniors Avoid Bathroom Slips & Falls

Across the country, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for people 65 or older.

Chances are, someone you know has taken a dangerous tumble. In San Diego County alone, an average of 19 seniors (people over the age of 75) a day have falls so serious they require help from paramedics. And every single day in California, two seniors die from fall-related injuries.

More then 60 percent of all falls take place in the home. But many of these can be prevented through basic precautions.

Falling can cause hip fractures or head trauma and, in some cases, lead to respiratory disease and/or bouts of depression. If hospitalized as a result of a fall, many seniors never function well enough to live independently again.

So, how safe is your bathroom? Examine it with special attention to what's safe and what's a potential hazard. San Diego County Aging and Independence Services offers these safety tips:

  • Have grab bars installed to make getting into and out of the shower or tub easier.
  • Place a slip-resistant rug adjacent to the bathtub for safe entry and exit.
  • Put a rubber mat or place nonskid adhesive textured strips on the floor of the tub or shower. Note: A shower is safer than a tub because you are less likely to fall when getting in and out of a shower.
  • Get into a tub or shower by putting the weaker leg in first. Get out of a tub or shower with your stronger side first.
  • Remove glass shower enclosures. Many seniors use the doors as grab bars which aren't designed to support "falling weight" and can be more hazard than help.
  • Need to be more stabilized on the toilet? Try using either a raised seat, a special toilet seat with armrests, or a small grab bar on the wall next toe the toilet.
  • Add a shower seat in the bathtub or shower.
  • Install a hand-held shower unit for safer bathing.
  • Add a nightlight for nighttime restroom needs.

Don't put it off

There's no time like the present to implement safety measures. In fact, not only are these safety tips good for seniors, but also any home could benefit from a new and improved safety level in the bathroom. Use the safety tips presented here for yourself and all family members -- regardless of age.

Wherever you live, chances are there's a local community service or business that can help you. An excellent example is in San Diego.

Since 1998, Jewish Family Service (JFS) has operated JFS Fix-It Service (619-583.3300 ext. 321). This volunteer program provides no-cost home repairs for seniors.

Typical areas where JFS can help:
Install safety grab bars and hand rails
Install smoke detectors
Install carbon monoxide detectors
Install wireless doorbells
Perform four-point safety inspection completed during every repair
Volunteers are unable to perform tasks that involve the following:
Moving heavy items
Major repairs
Roof repairs
Referrals are provided when work is beyond what volunteers are capable of doing.