Bathroom Safety – What’s the big deal?

What’s the BIG DEAL?

Most falls take place at night.

Most falls take place going between the bed and the bathroom.

As we age we make more frequent trips to the bathroom at night.

Many people are on medications that can contribute to unsteadiness when

getting up in the middle of the night.

Bathrooms typically have hard surfaces and sharp corners.

Falls on these unforgiving surfaces can result in severe trauma.

Most folks want to continue to live at home as long as possible.

Taking fall prevention measures increases your probabilities for doing so.

 

This is why Bathroom Safety is a BIG DEAL

Happiness Is……

There are many reasons why we wish to remain active and healthy in our later years. I have just added one more reason this week with the birth of my first grandchild. We welcomed little Abigail into this world. A friend of mine told me that when a baby comes into this world, a grandfather is born. I look forward to sharing all the many milestones that lay ahead of her. So welcome me into that wonderful club many of you are already a part of, the grandparents club. And remember, stay healthy and fall free. Install those grab bars!

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An Ounce of Prevention…

A lot of my business comes from people who have already fallen. They have experienced a hospital stay and the painful recovery that follows. That’s why they call me. But there are some simple things you can do that may prevent that painful and expensive fall in the first place. Installing grab bars in places that are notorious for “tripping us up”, getting rid of throw rugs and area rugs, and putting better lighting in dimly lit parts of the house are just some of the easy things you can do. I have found an excellent website that touches on this topic. Visit http://www.learnnottofall.com for more ideas.

Why Falling IS Life Changing After 50

The Hard Facts and What They Mean

Why is falling life changing after 50?

Simply put: “We don’t bounce anymore”!

Over thirty three percent of older adults (over 65) will fall this year and every year.
Between the ages of 65 and 68 your Mom (or Dad) has an 80% probability of falling!

So if your Mom (or Dad) is 65 and one of 100 in a typical sample, then 33 of those people will fall this year. This leaves 67 who have not fallen.
Let’s assume your Mom is one of the 67 who did not fall.
But next year when your Mom is 66, one third (22) of her fall free group of 67 will fall.
That leaves 44 (lets include your Mom) from the original sample who after two years have not fallen.
In the third year when your Mom is 67 one third (or 15) of her remaining group of 45 will have a fall, leaving 30 out of the original 100 who have not fallen.
In the fourth year as she turns 68 another thirty three percent (10) of her group of 30 will have a fall, leaving only 20 from the original sample of 100 who have not had a life changing fall since turning 65.

In summary:
Between the ages of 65 and 68 your Mom (or Dad) has an 80% probability of falling!

Now I do not know how statistically pure that deduction is. But I am confident that regardless of how you do the math, the bottom line will always read: It is probable your Mom or Dad will have a life changing fall. The following statistics underscore why falls are life changing. If your spouse or parent falls it will change your life too!

•Among older adults falls are the leading cause of injury death.
•Falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
•Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. In 2000 TBI accounted for 46% of fatal falls among older adults.
•Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls.
•Those who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again
•About half (53%) of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall within six months.
•Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions, and 40% of all nursing home admissions. 40% of those admitted do not return to independent living. 25% die within a year.
• Up to 40% of people who have a stroke have a serious fall within the next year.
•Many falls do not result in injuries, yet a large percentage of non-injured fallers (47%) cannot get up without assistance.

Will Your Parents Fall?

Will your parents fall? And what can be done to prevent it?

Yes. It is most likely that your parents will fall and hurt themselves.
Over 33% of adults over 65 fall every year.
Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions, and 40% of all nursing home admissions.
40% of those admitted do not return to independent living. 25% die within a year. And as age increases so does the likelihood of falling.

What can be done to prevent it is very straightforward. The Center for Disease Control has a solid brochure “Check for Safety” A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults http://www.cdc.gov/injury) that I recommend. The principals are clear. Number One is Exercise. Whatever you can do to encourage your parents to be physically active – Do It! Physical activity and balance is directly linked. When your parents Fall they will have lost their balance.
Number Two is “Senior Proof” their house…and / or your house! Most parents are stubborn. They don’t want to admit to themselves or their children that they need Grab Bars. So show them how cool Grab Bars can be and install them first in your shower! So the first “step” of Senior Proofing is to make the bathroom(s) safer because they are the number one danger zone. If you just do theses two actions you will have increased the probabilities for your parents being able to continue living independently: Install Grab Bars and put friction “tread” tape on the floor of the tub or shower stall.

Taking Care of Your Parents

Taking care of your parents is not only a gift to them but also to you.
From the ages of 65, 66, 67 to 68 there is an 80% chance one of your parents will have a life changing fall. The older they get the greater is the likelihood of falling. If they fall, it will change your life too.
As they lose their independency, they will need more from you.
This is a classic situation of “a stitch in time saves nine.” If you have grab bars installed in their bathroom(s) and friction tread tape put on the floor of their tub. If you improve the lighting in their home including dawn to dusk and motion detector nightlights, and if you clear their pathways of anything they might trip over like throw rugs and stacks of old magazines. Then you will be increasing their chances of NOT falling. So that’s a very inexpensive gift you can give to them that will also pay you back many times over.
Now there is another area where you can help and that is to be sure they are getting exercise. This needs to be aerobic in the form of walking, tread-milling, elliptical use and the like. And there also needs to be flexibility and balance practice in the form of yoga or tai chi.
If you do these things then you will have significantly improved the probability of your parents continuing to enjoy their home, aging in place.

The Danger of Falls and How To Prevent Them

There is one central question about elders living at home home: can they do so without falling?

This cannot be emphasized enough. A large proportion of  nursing home populations arrive there after a fall, when at home care after hospitalization becomes impossible. What is it about falling  risk that makes it so tempting to disregard? Where do we get the idea that falling is what happens to others, but not to me or my family?

Falls seem innocuous, but aren’t. Falls are an underrated source of danger for all people, though this danger is not well publicized like cancer or crime violence. Falls during work kill thousands of workers per year.  Falling is also the #1 cause of death in national parks. For seniors however, the danger is greater than being on a ladder or hiking up a cliff- falling from standing height can hresult in catastrophic bone breakage.

When elders fall from standing height earlier in their lives, they get back up, perhaps bruised. Yet the sad truth is that as aging progresses, sight, balance and agility diminish. Bones become more delicate and vulnerable. As a result, one in four people over 65 have a health damaging fall every year. Indeed, falling is the leading cause of death amongst seniors. However becuase it doesn’t make as sexy a news story as a heroic battle with cancer, we hear less about it.

How can falls have mortal consequences?

It’s simple, and sad. For seniors, falling typically means broken bones- femur is common; hip is common; dislocated joints are common. Also, sometimes seniors have no way to contact anyone once they are on the ground and cannot move, worsening the injury. (Hence the importance of emergency necklaces). For example, let’s say a broken hip immobilizes the elder and prevents them from being as active as they had been, permanently even after the immobilization required for healing and then physical therapy. As a result the elder cannot exercise, which lowers the immune system, the metabolism, circulatory system, etc. From there, weight gain and depression become dangers, and the elder is more susceptible to a potentially killer illness like pneumonia. Mobility and exercise are key to health throughout life, but especially as a senior.

What’s THE best preventative?

Luckily, fixes are easy. Get rid of throw rugs and any other rug not nailed to the floor so it has no floppy edges. I heard this echoed by an EMT I know. When I mentioned my work with seniors, he immediately said “You have to get rid of throw rugs. We get a call once every 36 hours to transport someone to the hospital who has fallen!” That’s approximately 240 broken hips per year just in that city, and most from tripping on throw rugs.

Another easy fix is for elders to wear sturdy shoes with aggressive tread. Keds type soles, slippers, and other flat bottom shoes increase the fall danger. Get a light hiking boot or similar for yourself or your parent. Indeed, my mother fell down a flight of carpeted stairs several years ago after wearing Keds low-tops; a terrifying experience for us all

A third easy fix are making an effort to improve balance while health is good. A range of exercises can be found here, and on youtube.

Finally, you can call me, and together we can design retrofits your or your parents’ home to minimize the fall risk while allowing for comfortable at home living.

Photo by renjith krishnan.