Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Who Doesn't Want To be Safe In The Bathroom?"

January is "National Bath Safety Month." The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home - especially for falls - so it is good that we start the year by focusing on one of the most problematic areas of the home.

Falls are very dangerous and one of the leading causes of serious injury and death in the home. In the bathroom, they are especially serious because we are dressed to cushion a fall and they are so many hard surfaces on which to fall.

Considering that the tile surfaces when they are wet become quite treacherous - especially when a little soap is added to them - it's no wonder that so many falls occur in the bathroom.

Because of the propensity for falling in the bathroom, it's important that we do everything possible to provide assistance in the event of a slip to keep the loss of balance or footing from become more serious. Strategic grab, assist, or safety bars are a good first step.

By installing a 12-15" long (can be longer by personal preference or scale of the bathroom) vertical grab bar outside by near the rear entrance to a tub or shower - at a comfortable height of a normal arm extension parallel to the floor - anyone can have a safe means of catching themselves entering or exiting the tub or shower.

There is not a person - no matter how well-coordinated or physically fit they are - that at some time during the course of a year might experience a little dizziness, muscle fatigue, leg cramp, charlie horse, momentary muscle weakness, over-exertion from exercise, cold or flu symptoms, or other condition and be glad that they have something to grab onto for support near the entrance or exit of their tub or shower.

In the absence of a specific, dedicated bar for this purpose, people will use whatever is handy when they start to slip or need a little extra support. They will reach for - sometimes out of panic-mode - a towel rod or ring, a soap holder, or some other decorative feature that is not designed for support. This exacerbates the slip and can cause additional injury.

There are other issues in the bath that can produce discomfort and injuries ranging from mild to serious. Excessive hot water, stumbling and falling into the edge of the toilet or sink, or having something fall on them in the shower or tub such as a bottle of shampoo when they weren't expecting it are just some of the additional concerns to be aware of in the bath.

Being locked inside a bathroom when help is needed is another serious - and potentially dangerous - issue. While we like to think that the bathroom door should be locked to prevent unauthorized entry, it's really more of a privacy matter than security. It's not a public restroom. It's a bathroom at home. Close the door to indicate that the bathroom is occupied, but locking it (except for visitors and guests) is really unnecessary.

It's much easier to provide assistance to someone when they call out for help  (or we detect that they are unresponsive) when the bathroom door is unlocked. There are many times when this could be important - illness, panic, disorientation, a fall, fainting or seizure, stroke, or other such episode.

Bath safety month is a time to remember challenges we - and our clients - face in the bathroom.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.