Impact of falls not just the physical

Editor’s Note

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

This column previously ran Oct. 19, 2019

You probably know of someone who has suffered a serious injury as the result of a fall. Every year, one in three people falls, and over 800,000 are hospitalized for serious injuries like hip fractures and head traumas. Falls are the main reason why many older adults lose their independence.

Fear of falling again is common after a fall. Those who have fallen often hold onto the furniture and the walls to balance themselves and look at the floor when walking, instead of looking straight ahead. People will delay going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water or something to eat, or they avoid other common activities in order to prevent another fall.

When it comes to preventing falls in the home, the bathroom is one of the first rooms you should focus on. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), persons between the ages of 75 and 85 are twice as likely as the average person to suffer a nonfatal injury in the bathroom. For those over age 85, the risk of an injury goes up to more than four times that of the average person. In its report, the CDC noted: “This study found that older adults had the highest fracture rates and were hospitalized most often… Preventing falls and subsequent injuries in this vulnerable older population is critical.” Here are seven areas where bathroom safety can be improved.

Install Grab Bars. Grab bars are an indispensable tool for elder care bathroom safety. Grab bars perform two essential functions. First, they give the person something to grip and anchor themselves with when moving in or out of the tub and getting on or off the toilet. Second, in the case of a fall, grab bars can help them catch or brace themselves.

Prevent Slips. Many falls are caused by slippery surfaces. In order to prevent slips, it is advised that you install nonslip surfaces on the floor of the tub or shower. Nonslip decals should also be applied to bathroom tile, which can be just as dangerous when wet. It is also a good idea to remove scatter rugs, which are easily to slip on or trip over.

Improve Accessibility. Making sure that commonly used items are within easy reach is essential for areas like bathrooms where the risk of slipping or falling is heightened. This is especially important in the shower or bathtub, so make sure that soap, shampoo, conditioner, towels, and any other bathing items are within easy reach.

Remove Obstacles. Bathroom safety can be improved by removing items that are easily tripped over. One of the biggest risks for the elderly is tripping over the side of their bathtub. Installing a walk-in shower or walk-in bathtub can prevent this from occurring.

Reduce Risk of Over Exertion. Many injuries and falls are caused by overexertion. By installing a secure bathing seat and a raised seat for your loved one’s toilet, you can reduce the risk of your loved one overexerting themselves.

Improve Visibility. For many elderly people, frequent urination – especially at night – is a common complaint. By installing night lights that illuminate the walkway from the bedroom to the bathroom, you reduce the chance of a fall or injury.

Prevent Hot Water Burns. Elderly people have thinner, more delicate skin and can take longer to notice hot temperatures. Because of this, they are often at increased risk of burns caused by hot water. Make sure your loved one’s bathroom taps are clearly labelled and keep hot water temperatures to a maximum of 120 F.

Bonus Tip: Toilet safety is just as important as shower or tub safety. In fact, the CDC’s study on elder care bathroom safety showed that seniors are more likely to injure themselves while sitting down on, getting up from, or using the toilet than they are to injure themselves in the shower or bathtub.


Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in homecare. Visiting Angels non-medical homecare services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines and familiar surroundings. To set up an appointment for a no-obligation in-home assessment, call 330-332-1203.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.50/week.

Subscribe Today