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“I’ve fallen…and I can’t get up!”

These words have become a pop culture punchline, but they’re much less funny when you consider the source.  The phrase comes from a commercial highlighting a common threat, particularly to senior citizens — falls in the home.  The laughter really fades when you consider that falls are the leading cause of injury at home.

According to an AARP study, the primary cause of death among adults 65 and older is falling.  One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year—with most falls occurring in the home.  Almost a third of those who survive their fall will have to live with injuries that will affect their independence for the rest of their lives, such as hip fractures or head traumas. Those types of injuries not only make it difficult or impossible to live independently, but can sometimes be fatal.

.@AARP 1 out of 3 adults age 65+ falls each year—don't be a statistic! #FallPrevention #ForTheRoadAheadCLICK TO TWEET

Small in square footage, large in hazards

The most dangerous room in the home for falls for people of all ages is also typically the smallest — the bathroom. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent are hospitalized.  More than a third of the injuries happen while bathing or showering, and over 14 percent occur while using the toilet.”

“Injuries increase with age, peaking after 85, and the most hazardous activities for all ages are bathing, showering and getting out of the tub or shower.”  Injuries in or near the bathtub or shower account for more than two-thirds of emergency room visits, and are four times more likely to occur getting out of the tub or shower than into it. The study also found a high incidence of injuries getting on and off the toilet for people 65 and older.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that bathroom related falls are easily preventable.

The bathroom safety trio:  grab bars, bath seats and non-slip mats

Grab bars

After reporting this high incidence of bathroom falls, the lead author of the above CDC safety report recommends, “Having grab bars by the toilet would be helpful for people in their older years, and everyone would benefit from having grab bars both inside the tub or shower and where you get in and out.”

So why doesn’t everyone have grab bars inside their tub, shower and bathroom? One reason is that traditional grab bar and bath rail installation can be expensive and labor-intensive. This type of installation involves penetrating wall, tiling and fixtures to ensure a secure hold. If not properly done, it can damage costly tile and fixtures.

One major advantage of many bath safety products is that they have tool-free installation, which means no damage or drilling into fixtures or tile. This suction-cup grab bar comes in three different lengths and rotates to any angle.  Its large suction cups guarantee an extremely strong hold, and it has color-coded indicators to ensure suction stays at a safe level. A clamp-on tub rail also has easy, tool-free assembly, with a patented soft-edge design that does not compromise safety.

In terms of optimal placement of grab bars, a study done by a national housing organization found that a minimum of two bars are necessary to ensure safety in all phases of tub entry or exit. A bar installed vertically on the side tub wall assists best with entry and exit, while a longer, horizontal bar on the back wall helps during sitting and standing in the tub.  Ideally, a third grab bar should be next to the toilet to ensure safety.

Bath safety seating

Bath chairs and benches provide additional security for individuals with strength or balance issues once inside the tub or shower. This shower chair is easily height-adjustable and non-slip, with an enhanced comfort seat to fit all shapes and sizes. Customers who have purchased Drive Medical’s bath safety seats commented on their strength, comfort and compatibility:

“Great shower bench. It’s strong, sturdy, and very secure. Five star quality all the way.”

5 star review: Great shower bench, it's strong & sturdy! #FallPreventionCLICK TO TWEET

“…sturdy, easy to put together and plenty of room to sit in…feels good too.”

Non-slip mats

One of the reasons why bathroom falls are so injurious is that generally every bathroom surface is a hard surface.  Falling in a bathtub, onto a tiled floor or making impact with a fixture can result in a much more severe injury. For seniors, and for anyone with strength or mobility issues, a standard rubber tub mat or a bathmat that may slide is not enough to ensure optimal safety. Placing non-slip mats inside and outside the shower or tub and near the toilet and sinks not only prevent but also cushion potential falls. An extra-long bath mat is as large, slip-proof surface for extra safety.  Its mold-resistant latex-free rubber helps prevent a different type of bathroom hazard — germs and mildew that can cause infection or respiratory problems in elderly or immune-compromised individuals.

With these three types of products, anyone can avoid becoming a bathroom safety statistic, or a commercial tagline.  As one grab bar purchaser stated: I don’t know why I waited to get these in my bathroom. It is a wise and wonderful investment. It surely makes me feel safe. I know the rest of my family is more at ease knowing I have these safety features. Safety knows no age barrier – good for everyone to have.”

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