The combination of water and hard surfaces makes the bathroom the most likely room in the house for slip and fall accidents. That combination can create serious fall hazards for seniors in particular, since bones lose strength and density with age, increasing the risk of serious injuries when accidents do occur. Plus, eyesight, balance and coordination issues that affect many of us with aging make such incidents more likely.
Here are some tips that can help make bathrooms safer:
- Deal with surfaces that get slippery. Non-slip rubber mats are essential in the tub or shower, as is cleaning or replacing them regularly to preserve their ability to grip slippery surfaces. Use rubber-backed bath mats to avoid stepping out of the tub onto a wet, slippery floor, or in front of sinks to avoid falls from splashing water. Installing wall to wall carpeting in the bathroom can help avoid that problem as well, without creating a tripping hazard. Finally, be sure that shampoos, soaps, conditioners or bath oils are rinsed thoroughly after bathing, since they can make the tub or shower floor extremely slick, presenting a hazard as you step out of the shower or bath.
- Add support and safety to bathing areas. Grab handles in shower stalls and bathtubs are a great idea in any house, since anyone can slip while stepping in, but they are especially important for anyone who has issues with balance, coordination or muscle weakness. Adding a bath bench or chair is a great safety measure as well, as is a hand-held shower head that can make benches or chairs more convenient to use for bathing. After all, who hasn't slipped a bit while standing on one foot in the shower to wash the other one?
- Have good lighting. Dim lighting in the bathroom makes it harder to see slipping hazards, like water in the floor, or trip hazards, like towels left in the floor or bunched-up bath mats. Additionally, consider a night light in the bathroom to avoid accidents while feeling about for the light switch when you're groggy from sleep; or install automatic, motion triggered lighting.
- Add safety features to the toilet area. This is especially important for senior family members or anyone who may have trouble with balance, coordination or muscle weakness. In such situations, grab bars or rails for balance when as that person seats themselves or while getting up can greatly reduce fall hazard, as can raised seating to make those tasks safer and less strenuous.
Other things that you can do to reduce risk of falls in the bathroom are making sure that the floor is kept free of towels and clothing and making sure that bath products are closed and put away after bathing to ensure against slippery spills. When it comes to fall hazards, thinking ahead is the way to go, especially in the bathroom, with porcelain surfaces to cause serious injury to a person who falls against them. Take the time to assess and handle those hazards to help avoid falls.