An activity that many find relaxing – taking a nice, hot bath – can actually be dangerous to some residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere, according to safety experts.
Whether they’re receiving hospice care or traditional care, caution is in order not just in the bath but the whole bathroom.
This advice comes courtesy of the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice, which is happy to offer pointers and safety recommendations to clients and their families for not just bathrooms but any room of the house.
However, bathrooms are considered particularly hazardous.
The AARP declares it the most dangerous room in a typical house, more so than the kitchen or garage or other rooms where one would think hazards can occur.
All ages can be hurt – the AARP said that in 2008 about 22 million Americans aged 15 and over received injuries from bathrooms, and 235,000 of these required emergency room visits. Seniors lead this age group with the highest rates of injuries.
As many as 80 percent of the injuries in the bathroom were a result of a fall, and seniors again had the highest rates of broken bones and injuries requiring hospitalization.
There are many culprits in typical bathrooms that can easily cause injuries – hard counters, toilets, and other fixtures to start with, plus plenty of sharp corners and smooth surfaces. Adding to this can be slippery surfaces when they naturally get wet, or obstructions and tripping hazards such as clothes, towels, or area rugs. There might be other dangers such as toys, soaps, or glass containers on counters that might get knocked down.
Injuries can take place even with minor falls such as falling off a toilet and hitting one’s head or stumbling getting in or out of the shower.
Those with medical conditions are even more at risk of injury. For instance, some receiving hospice care may not have the strength, the flexibility, the balance, or even the reaction time anymore to catch themselves before they fall.
There are a variety of solutions that can help lower the risk of bath-related injuries.
The first is to look for various tools that can improve safety. These can include installing handles in the tub and shower. This can not only give people something to hold onto while they climb in and out but something they can also grab onto if they start to slip or lose their balance during the shower itself.
There are also shower chairs that can be used in the bath for people to safely sit down on while they scrub, and no-slip stickers which can be put at the bottom of the tub to improve traction and cut down on slippery areas.
Non-skid bath mats can be placed inside or outside of the bath which provides traction and a place to stand to dry off to reduce the risk of slipping.
Trained caregivers are encouraged to assist with baths if needed. Not only can they be nearby in case the client needs help right away, but they also can make sure the client takes proper steps in the entire process by safely washing and getting in and out.
They can also help by adjusting the temperature so it’s just right for a client. Some medical conditions make it difficult to feel when things are too hot or cold, so there’s a risk of getting badly burned or getting too chilled from cold water.
Home health nurses or aides trained in bathing can also assist them if needed with the bathing process to make sure it’s done safely and performed thoroughly. This helps clients stay clean, practice good hygiene, and feel refreshed and better about themselves afterward.
It can certainly feel a little awkward for someone to help bathe an adult, but home health employees are trained to do this properly and provide the client with as much dignity as possible. They provide this service with compassion as a way to help clients with an important task that they may have a hard time doing by themselves in their current condition.
If needed, the home health aides can also help with other hygiene needs such as grooming and dental hygiene.
If you’d like to learn more about better bathing practices, there are plenty of resources out there, along with an actual holiday.
Some safety advocates mark Jan. 1 as Bath Safety Day but others celebrate all through the month. National Bath Safety Month encourages people to learn more about ways people can bathe better and reduce injuries in the bath and bathroom.
The program isn’t just for seniors but there’s some definite overlap. For instance, young children and seniors can face similar risks of slipping and falling or even burning themselves. Both groups should have someone nearby in case of emergencies or accidents, such as a parent or caregiver.
Bath Safety Month resources include tips on ways to lower risks of harm, such as slipping and falling.