The entertainment industry was recently hit by shock with the passing of a talented Yoruba actor and producer, Murphy Afolabi, who was said to have died after a bathroom fall.
According to the United States Centre for Diseases Control, up to 80 per cent of falls in the home occur in the bathroom.
These fall-related injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises to broken bones, head injuries and spinal cord, and more than 200,000 senior citizens, according to the CDC, are treated in emergency rooms each year.
Experts have identified that the bathroom can be a dangerous place for senior citizens and people advanced in ages (mid-ages – between 54 and 65). This is because bathroom floors are slick. The surfaces are wet; the space is small and everything is hard.
If you fall in a bathroom, there is a good chance that in addition to the impact of hitting the floor, you will hit some part of your body – head, knee, shoulder – on a cabinet or fixture.
Recent studies have shown that for people aged 65 and older, falls account for approximately 60 per cent of all injury-related emergency department visits and over 50 per cent of injury-related deaths annually, and up to 80 per cent of falls in the home occur in the bathroom.
Belvedere Homecare, an online health resource, states that most fall in the bathroom occur while seniors are transferred or are being transferred in and out of the tub or shower, or while using the toilet.
Seniors who are experiencing balance or mobility issues also fall when they are using sink tops, shower bars, hampers, or other unstable objects to support themselves when in the bathroom.
Slick tile floors and small bathroom rugs can be a tripping hazard and cause a fall even if a senior is going into the bathroom to wash their hands or brush their teeth.
A safety professional, Mr Terry Promise, noted that adding safety features in the bathroom is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to help prevent loved ones from falling in the bathroom.
Install grab bars
Speaking to our correspondent, Promise said every bathroom should have grab bars close to the showers beside the bathtub and in the toilet.
“Installing grab bars will limit and even remove bathroom fall incidences since people will have something to hold on to before they hit the ground and get injured,” he added.
Another safety professional, who works with a health facility in Lagos, Uwanta Karibo, believes that grab bars are an important tool to install in bathrooms, especially where there are senior citizens.
He added that users of bathrooms should reduce the risk of over-exertion.
“According to a CDC study, overexertion is the second most common cause of injuries in the bathroom, behind falls,” he stated.
You may also consider installing a secure bathing seat and a raised seat for your loved ones’ toilet to help them avoid over-exerting themselves.
Place non-slip mats around bathtubs
Promise stated that falls often occur when senior citizens are getting in and out of the tub or shower or standing up after using the toilet.
He noted that placing a non-slip mat or decals on the floor of the shower or bathtub and a non-slip rug on the floor outside the tub or shower could help prevent falls.
“Non-slip mats – rather than fluffy rugs – are also the way to go in front of the toilet and the sink,” he added.
Karibo said older persons, in addition to placing a non-slip mat, should be advised to use a shower chair so they could sit while showering to prevent slips and falls.
“Make sure the chair has a non-slip seat and rubber tips on the feet so it won’t slide in the shower or tub,” he added.
Install raised toilet seat
According to Karibo, installing a raised toilet seat, which raises the seat height by three to four inches, will reduce the amount of effort needed to sit and stand when using the toilet.
He said, “It is the sit-stand-move motion that causes fall. If a raised seat is installed, bathroom falls can be reduced to the barest minimum.”
Promise added that placing shelves at eye level in the bathroom for toiletries could prevent bathroom falls.
“Senior citizens don’t have to reach up into a cabinet or bend down to look inside a vanity to get shampoo, toilet paper, air freshener, etcetera when a shelf is around eyesight.
“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/bathtub. Make sure that soap, shampoo, conditioner, towels, and any other bathing items are within easy reach,” he said.
Karibo warned that soap scum and build-up from condensation could leave surfaces slippery.
“Regular cleaning, at least, thrice weekly and every day for senior citizens can help reduce the incidents of bathroom falls.
“Scrub tubs, showers, grab bars and mats regularly to prevent a slick residue build-up,” he added.
Install efficient lighting, motion-sensor
Promise noted the use of a nightlight or motion-sensor lighting to ensure seniors had adequate light for nighttime visits to the bathroom.
He said, “Use a nightlight in any hallway along the path to the bathroom from the bedroom or living areas.”