Many people enjoy the bathroom as a relaxing stress-free zone. But for some older adults, bathrooms can be a hazardous place. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 234,000 Americans are treated annually in emergency rooms for bathroom-related injuries, most of which were caused by falls. Of those injured, about 30% of adults aged 65 or older experienced fractures. Of adults aged 85 and older, 38% were hospitalized. Furthermore, the National Institute on Aging reports that 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom.
What makes the bathroom a perilous place for older adults? It’s a combination of factors. In addition to hard surfaces and the potential for slippery floors, many bathrooms require a level of physicality that becomes tougher as you get older – things like sitting and standing up from a toilet, stepping into and out of a tub, reaching for cabinets, etc. Plus, health conditions that are common among seniors like low blood pressure, poor vision, and muscle weakness can make falls more likely.
It is important for caregivers to be aware of the potential dangers and take steps to ensure bathroom safety for the older adults in their lives. By doing so, they can help their loved ones maintain their independence and avoid serious injury. Take some time to look over your loved one’s bathroom and look for potential dangers or issues that can make the bathroom less easy to use.
Everyone’s bathroom is different – so if you’re not sure what kinds of changes you should make, ask your health care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist can assess your loved one’s specific needs and review your bathroom’s layout to make safety recommendations.