Preventing falling in the shower
True story. I was nearly 3 months pregnant with my 4th baby. My husband was home and I thought it was the best time to take a shower. He was able to watch other other 3 babies and I really needed a relaxing shower. Just as I stepped into the bath tub I slipped. I couldn’t regain my balance and I fell hard…. I felt flat onto my back on the edge of the bath tub. Right on my pelvis. I cracked my head on the tub and reached my hand back to feel for blood. I thought…I fell…Right on my pregnant…pregnant pelvis. I started bawling. Not only was I in pain, I was very worried about my baby. I dialed my OB’s office and worried for weeks. She ensured me that this early in the pregnancy my baby was deep in my pelvis and protected from falls. I was to watch for spotting and pain, and call with any updates. I’ll never forget it.
Preventing falls in the shower and bath can be difficult. This is one area of the house that for many brings images of peace and relaxation. A nice hot shower or bath after a long day is a great way to unwind. However, as we transition through different phases of our lives…the shower can become a scary place where many people fall annually. Bathing cam become a tedious requirement to a tired and pregnant woman who can’t quite reach her feet, or even a place totally off limits because of a wound dressing, surgery, or fear of falling. For our aging population, physical limitations can greatly impact the risk of falling. What are we to do?
As an Occupational Therapist, focusing on the daily activities of persons I work with, bathing is often a primary focus. While physical capabilities directly impact the likelihood of falling in the shower, adapting the environment in someone’s bathroom can make a difference also. In order to improve the ability to bathe takes adaptive equipment, I make an individual assessment and gather knowledge about the person’s abilities and limitations. For example if someone is having difficulty with their balance, standing in a slippery shower and moving around to wash could prove dangerous and increase the risk of falling. Using this knowledge, looking at their actual shower and going through the process gives me great insight. Here are some things I’ve learned and look for:
- Lighting overall and darkness inside shower from curtain.
- While the bathroom may be bright, a dark shower curtain can make the tub dark.
- Height of tub and a person’s ability to step-over.
- Balancing on one-leg to step over the shower can be tricky.
- Slippy surfaces such as tub and tile floor.
- Water makes tile very slippery.
- Throw rugs, rubber backed for anti-slip or rugs that can encourage a fall.
- Handle bars, or lack of grab bars.
- Obstacles like objects over the floor.
- Kid’s toys, garbage can, towels, clothing, bathing and cleaning supplies etc.
- Length of reach to take shower down (if removable long-handled).
- Shower chair or bench presence.
- Sturdiness of bench, ability to get onto and off of it safely.
- Distance needed to reach necessary objects like soap and shampoo.
- Reaching very high or low can send one off balance.
- Presence of long-handled bathers to clean back and feet without reaching.
- Person’s ability to tolerate standing for length of shower, fatigue level and endurance.
Falls provide a major health risk to the public annually and The American Occupational Therapy Association produces evidence based practice guidelines for our intervention in this area. Evidence supports an OT’s role in fall prevention in modifying the home environment, such as the bathroom, to both reduce physical risk of fall and decrease one’s fear of falling (1). I know that bathing is often a focus of an evaluation and I have personal experience working with individuals bathing and also have had personal difficulties in this area; But problems bathing are for old people right?! Wrong. Anyone can have difficulty bathing.
When I was expecting during my pregnancies, the thought of standing in the shower for 20 minutes trying to wash my lower legs while off balance and having trouble reaching past my pregnant belly was daunting. I dreaded having to get in. I did not want to shower! I finally got a shower seat and this in combination with our long-handled shower made the experience easy and actually enjoyable. When I was surprised with an emergency c-section, and long surgical recovery…the shower seat and long-handled shower head were the only way I was able to bathe.
So where does one go for specialized bathroom faucets? When I saw the opportunity for this post I was thrilled. I have to share this fantastic bathroom invention with you…and if you haven’t seen it before you will want one now! (I know I do!!) What is this pictured below you ask? This bathroom shower fixture is known as a Slide Bar and produced by Danze, a maker of high quality and versatile bathroom faucets. They are even carried on Amazon and this Three Function Hand Shower with Slide Bar is very reasonably priced!
This fixture, in addition to other adaptive equipment including a Shower Seat, Grab Bars and Non-Slip Safety Shower Treads can mean the difference between a fearful experience…and a relaxing shower you actually look forward to. How does the slide bar work? The Danze Slide Bar allows the long handled shower head to move up and down a range from 24″ to 30″. This means that you can sit on a chair and allow the spray to be positioned at the perfect height for rinsing hair, washing your back, or angled away from your feet while you wash up.
If you’re sitting to bathe without this slide bar, one has to stand up and sit down to grab the shower head as needed and either hold onto it or let it dangle to have both hands free for washing. From personal experience I know it just sprays everywhere when left to dangle and an cool shower creation like this is a wonderful thing to have.
In addition to helping people with disabilities, this bar allows for a lower shower for children, shorter adults and even pets. Okay…now I really want one! While installation of this may require help from a handy-man, or woman for that matter, once it’s in the whole family can enjoy it. Here is a photo from the Danze website that shows how great it looks on the wall. Obviously not everyone has a hotel style shower like this one, but this would work great in a regular bath tub or stand up shower with the faucets placed under the slide bar as well.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, this post does contain affiliate links. I earn a small percentage if you decide to shop through them. Mama Banana’s Adventures is an Occupational Therapist (OT) and providing this information based on personal experience and opinion. This post in no way makes an y attempt to diagnose or treat Consult your OT or physician for an OT referral for individualized shower and bathing adaptations geared towards your individual needs. The internet is not a good place to diagnose or treat an illness, injury or other deficit.