A slip or a fall can change your day, your week, and maybe even your life. A fall can happen anywhere and to anyone, regardless of age, and can be extremely frightening and quite painful.
The older we get, the more commonplace slips and falls become, and the risk of significant injury also increases. It is extremely important that as we grow older, and more importantly as our parents grow older, that we reduce these risks to enable them to live an active, independent, and healthy lifestyle.
Physical injury is not the only concern; a significant averse psychological impact such as a loss of confidence or feeling like they have lost their independence can also occur. We want our parents to feel safe and confident at home, and it’s always better to be proactive and reduce risks rather than addressing the issue after an incident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that around thirty per cent of adults over sixty-five will experience at least one fall a year due to several health-related factors including muscle weakness, problems with balance, mobility, and poor eyesight. Not all falls will result in injury, but a significant number will, and according to HSE statistics, twenty per cent of older adults will require medical attention for a fall and five per cent will experience a serious injury such as a fracture. Additionally, in some circumstances, a fall can be fatal.
The bathroom is the most common room in the house where slips and falls occur, and bathroom aids are vital to safeguard against such accidents. Many people will only look to such aids when mobility becomes an issue or after a slip or near fall occurs. They don’t consider the preventative qualities offered and sometimes broaching the subject can cause friction as a parent may feel it’s a sign of lost independence. In such circumstances, it’s worth pointing out that just because a bathroom aid is there, it doesn’t have to be used—the aid is for the peace of mind of those who care, whilst also offering safety and stability if they need it.
Getting in and out of the bath can often be a problem, especially as our parents get older. The addition of a bath lift is a simple device that can make a huge difference. A typical bath lift gently lowers the user in and out of the bath in a safe and secure way and, as such, significantly reduces the risk of falling when getting in and especially out of the bath. They are inexpensive and extremely simple to install; you literally unbox and attach the lift to the bath with suction cups. Once installed, the bath lift will lower your parent into the bath. Some models also recline, which is ideal for people with back pain or those who need help getting in or out of the bath.
For those who prefer a shower to a bath, a shower chair or stool offers excellent stability to anyone who feels they cannot stand safely or alone in a shower. Although commonly associated with the elderly, these inexpensive safety aids can be used by people of all ages as they ensure you are comfortable and well supported while you shower. Shower chairs are available as a portable chair or as a wall-mounted, fold-up chair which neatly tucks away when not in use.
Another option is a level-access shower which makes entering the shower as simple and safe as possible and significantly reduces the risk of a fall. It also makes the shower accessible for a wheelchair. Adapting a bathroom with a level-access shower can be expensive but there is a means-tested Housing Adaptation Grant available up to €30,000 should you decide to go down that route.
If you are renovating a bathroom, or if you are embarking on a new build, you should always try to future-proof your bathroom by incorporating a level-access shower or wet room. Your parents may be able-bodied and independent now, but their mobility will deteriorate over time and they may end up living with you. It’s much easier and far more cost-efficient to make the adaptions when the work is being done rather than having to endure the inconvenience and expense of such renovations later.
A grab rail is an inexpensive bathroom aid which can significantly reduce the risk of a slip or fall in the bathroom. Installing them inside and/or outside of the shower or bath and beside the toilet can reduce risks and make using the bathroom far safer. There are various types, lengths, and styles available from removable suction to fixed, so there is plenty of choice. It’s also worth remembering that it’s not just the elderly who slip and fall in the bathroom, so these provide safety for the entire family, not just your parents.
Other simple and inexpensive products such as non-slip rubber mats, which can be put in front of the sink and toilet and inside the shower, or even a simple platform step can also greatly reduce the risk of a fall.
Your parents want to maintain their independence and the toilet is often the last thing to which they are willing to concede. The toilet can cause significant problems for Mum and Dad as they age and adding a raised toilet seat can make a huge difference and greatly improve the comfort, usability, and overall independence of an elderly parent. They are available with or without armrests and in a variety of height settings, so they are suitable for all sizes.
Alternatively, a toilet frame is another option. It essentially frames the toilet and helps the user when sitting on and getting off the toilet. They are height and width adjustable, so they suit all body types. If budgets permit, a battery-powered lifting seat is ideal for those suffering muscle or joint weakness in their legs due to hip replacement, heart problems, multiple sclerosis, or obesity.
Most of these adaptions and bathroom aids are relatively simple, hassle free, and inexpensive. As mentioned previously, for larger more expensive adaptions, a means-tested Housing Adaptation Grant is available up to €30,000. For basic and cheaper alterations and bathroom aids such as grab rails, bath lifts, and shower adaptions, a means-tested Mobility Aids Grant Scheme is available and provides a maximum grant of €6,000.