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in the bathroom



                                                                                                                                   Photos: Sunrise Medical
Stay safe
in the
By Linda Norton, BSc OT, OT Reg (Ont)

                                 very year, close to 180,000 Canadian        bend your knee backwards to step sideways into
                                 adults over age 65 fall and injure          the tub. Using this method, you do not need
                                 themselves. Many of these falls occur       the strength to lift your whole leg, and it may
                        in the bathroom. It’s easy to see why. With          be easier to keep your balance.
                        smooth tiles and a little bit of water, bath-        • inside the tub or shower. A bar mounted
                        rooms can quickly create a slippery situation.       inside the tub or shower can help you move
                            But asking for help can be embarrassing or       from sitting to standing, or to steady yourself
                        difficult, particularly as many of the tasks that    while you standing.
                        occur in this room are so personal. Though it            Grab bars come in a variety of styles and
                        may be tempting, trying to do everything inde-       lengths, depending on your needs, and are often
                        pendently, regardless of how safe or unsafe it may   available in a variety of colours and shapes to
                        be, can easily lead to a serious accident or fall.   match your decor. Types of grab bars include
                                                                             • suction mounted. This type adheres to the
                        Get a grip                                           tile in the tub or shower area, and can be easily
                        To play it safe in the bathroom, consider that,      removed. It is not designed to hold your body
Tub mounted grab bar.
                        although tempting, towel bars and soap dishes        weight but rather to help steady you. It is impor-
                        should not be used to steady yourself. These         tant to follow the manufacturer’s directions
                        fixtures have not been mounted to support            during installation and to check the bar on
                        your weight load, and they can easily be pulled      a regular basis to ensure continued adherence.
                        from the wall. Using these fixtures often starts     For people who travel, this type of bar can be
Quick tip               subtly, with a hand resting on them occasionally,    installed easily in hotel bathrooms, provided
If you think a bath     and then becomes a regular occurrence. If you        there are large tiles in the bathroom area.
seat or bath bench      find yourself touching these items to steady         • tub mounted. This type mounts to the side of
may be helpful but      yourself, it is time to consider a grab bar.         the tub with a clamp. It is important to speak with
you’re reluctant to         Consider where in the bathroom you tend          a sales representative or read the manufacturer’s
buy one, consider       to need support to help you determine which          literature carefully as not all tub-mounted grab
renting it instead.     style of grab bar you need. Helpful places to        bars fit on all tubs. Tub-mounted grab bars are
Renting will allow      consider mounting one include                        easily removed and do not damage the tub itself.
you to try the device   • at the edge of the tub. It is often helpful to     • wall mounted. To mount this type of bar, holes
and see for yourself    mount a grab bar on the wall, perpendicular to       are drilled into the tile and wall. These bars
just how helpful this   the floor and in line with the tub’s edge. You can   become a permanent fixture and when mounted
equipment can be.       then face and hang on to this bar when getting       correctly can enable you to more easily move
                        in and out of the tub. Keep your hip straight and    from sitting to standing.

12 Solutions                                                                                                     SPRING 2008
Take a seat                                            ty to ensure it can lift you safely. These devices
Maintaining your balance while in the shower           are also usually more cumbersome to remove             Quick tip
or tub can also be a challenge, so using a             from the tub and are much more expensive               If you have trouble
hand-held shower and sitting on a bath stool           than either a bath bench or bath seat.                 keeping your balance,
or bench is usually recommended. Several                                                                      cleaning a bathtub
different styles are available. If you have a fibre-   Keep dry                                               can be a problem.
glass tub, check with your sales representative,       Long-handled sponges and foot scrubs help              Buy a long-handled
as some stools/benches may damage the tub              you reach all of your body while bathing. Long-        tub scrub, which will
depending on the weight placed on them.                handled sponges come in different shapes               enable you to clean
    Shower stools are small stools that are            and sizes, with different handle lengths. Before       the tub and tiles
usually adjustable in height and that fit within       purchasing one, make sure you can manoeuvre            without stretching.
the tub or shower. They may come with or               it in such a way that you can reach your back
without a back support. This type of equipment         and legs. Foot scrubs attach to the bottom
is most appropriate for people who are able            of the tub. Suction cups for the soap and
to get into the tub when standing, perhaps             foot pads are
with the help of a grab bar. They can be easily        on either side.
removed when someone else wants                        Rubbing your foot
to use the tub or shower.                              alternatively on
    Transfer benches extend from inside the tub or     the soap and then
shower to the outside. These are usually height        the foot pad will
adjustable and usually come with a back support.       help you clean the
The primary advantage is you can sit on the            bottom of your feet. This way, you don’t need
bath bench while outside the tub, then place           to reach down to wash them, and potentially
your legs into the tub. The disadvantage is            lose your balance.
transfer benches are usually heavier than                  To dry off after bathing, wear an absorbent
shower stools, so although removable, they             robe, which will help dry some of the hard-to-
may be more difficult for others to remove             reach places, such as your back. Also, sit down
when they want to use the tub or shower.               to dry yourself off. You can place a towel on
                                                       your rollator (if you use one) and sit there to
                                                       dry your legs and feet. You could also rest on
                                                       the lid of the toilet seat or a small chair.
                                                           Finally, while bathing, have someone else
                                                       at home if possible. That way if you have any
                                                       difficulty, you’ll have someone nearby who can
                                                       help. If arranging for someone to be at home
                                                       with you isn’t possible, consider investing in an        “The only time
                                                                                                                  the world
                                                       alert system. This type of system usually comes
                                                                                                                  beats a path
                                                       with a pendent or wrist band with a button.
                                                                                                                  to your door
                                                       If you fall or have difficulty, you can push the
                                                                                                                     is when
                                                       button to alert a call centre. Staff at the centre
                                                       may be able to speak to you directly to help and             you’re in

                                   Transfer bench.
                                                       or call your pre-authorized list to summon help.
                                                           Unfortunately, accidents do occur in the
                                                                                                                the bathroom.
                                                                                                                    Anonymous   ”
   Bath lifts sit inside the tub and raise off         home, and the bathroom is the most frequent
the tub floor to make it easier to sit on them.        place for them to happen. By considering your
Once you are positioned, they lower you down           health needs, you can buy the right devices to
into the bathtub. Although many people like to         help you maintain your independence and stay
be sitting in the water, bath lifts do have some       safe in the bathroom. l
disadvantages. The device takes up space in
the tub, so when lowered down, you will have                      Linda Norton, BSc OT, OT Reg (Ont), is
less room for your legs in the tub. Also it is                    the Rehabilitation Education Co-ordinator
important to check the device’s weight capaci-                    with Shoppers Home Health Care.

SPRING 2008                                                                                                             Solutions 13

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