How to Make Your Home a Safer Place for Seniors



                                        
By Kerry Knight

Ah ... Home, sweet home. We normally think that once we arrive home after a day at the office, or shopping, or traveling, or just out-and-about that "we're back home, safe and sound."

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Yet accidents can and do happen anywhere in our homes and apartments. You can trip and fall down the stairs. You can open a closet or cabinet and have an object fall on you. The list is of potential home accidents is long and oftentimes disconcerting. 

In the United States, injury is the leading cause of death among children and young adults and nearly half of these accidents occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council.  That same group states that in 2002, there were more than 33,000 deaths and eight million disabling injuries that occurred in the home.  That makes one death every 16 minutes and one disabling home injury every four seconds.  When it comes to injury and death in home accidents, the leading culprits are falls, toxins and suffocation by ingested objects or smoke inhalation.  Poisoning is the number one cause of death, which claimed the lives of 12,500 in 2002 alone in the United States.   
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What are the two most dangerous rooms in your house?  While accidents can happen anywhere, there are a couple of rooms that create greater chances for an accident than others.  What are the two most dangerous rooms in your house?  One is the kitchen.  The other is the bathroom. 

Each year in this country, more than 100,000 people go to the hospital due to a scalding injury.  This can happen in the kitchen or the bath.  Hot water alone causes 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths each year in the U.S.  Water boils at 212° Fahrenheit.  It only takes a little more than one second of skin contact with 150°F degree water to create third-degree burns. 

Case in point: A couple of years ago, I was getting some gourmet soup out of the microwave when the plastic lid popped off, causing the scalding cream of portabella mushroom soup to pour on to my right forearm and hand.  Did it ever hurt! I ended up going to the ER that night because I was in such pain. I was lucky, though. One of the ER docs had told me I’d lose dexterity in my fingers due to scar tissue, but that never happened.  Yet even today, if you look closely, you can still see some visible scars. 

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Did you know that dull kitchen knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones. Why?  Because they are more likely to slip while applying pressure.

Modern gas ranges are a little safer than they were 50 years ago. But even cooking and baking ware can become dangerous. For example, a glass casserole dish left on the range top can explode, jettisoning sharp shards of glass and hot food stuffs everywhere.  Harmful cleaning products under the sink can put children (and pets) at risk. Even sinks and faucets can become dangerous if the water temperature is set too high. I have a neighbor who burned her hand while doing the dishes. 

There is also an invisible killer in the kitchen – bacteria.  Cross-contamination with raw chicken is a known culprit.  Wiping down table tops and counter tops with the same cloth can spread contaminants.  The worse might be the sponge you keep near or in the kitchen sink.  E-coli and salmonella are more common than you think. (Change your sponge often.) 

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The bathroom offers its own set of harmful conditions.  In addition to having the hot water gauge set too high, causing one to burn themselves while using the sink, shower or bathtub, by its very design material-wise, the bathroom can be a formidable environment. Think about it: almost every surface in the bathroom is hard and unyielding.  If one were to fall and hit a part of their body, particularly their face and head on the edge of the sink, toilet, bathtub, shelf, even the edge of a towel rack, a serious injury may ensue. 

Mirrors and other items such as cups and glass containers (for cotton, Q-tips, etc.) can break to become a dangerous lacerating object. My cousin once inadvertently knocked the overhead light fixture near the sink with her hair brush.  It broke into numerous shards of glass, which came raining down on her ... a potentially dangerous accident. 

While we often think of falls in the bathroom as an issue only for the elderly, it’s a problem we all face daily.  A slippery surface combined with wet and soapy conditions can lead to a fall and injury for anyone, regardless of age.  According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, nearly a quarter of a million Americans age 15 and older fall in the bathroom every year.  That’s a staggering number when you consider just how much a bad fall can ruin your life. For example:
  • In 2010, direct medical costs related to falls were $30 billion.
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  • One out of every three adults aged 65 and older fall every year.

  • In 2010, 2.3 million fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency rooms.
Even with all these sobering statistics, most people are reluctant to install grab bars in the bathroom.  Perhaps that’s because of pride, vanity or stubbornness. After all, no one wants their home to look like an institutionalized hospital room.

But there is some good news … One of the newest and best-received innovations of the last 12 years is the Walk-in Bathtub.  This one invention solves many problems related to safety and independent care, especially for seniors.  These freestanding tubs are attractive and are sturdily built.  Made of shiny marine-grade fiberglass with gel coat on a stainless steel frame, they can be placed in the same spot where your old drop-in bathtub once stood.  They come with beautiful chrome faucet, controls, drain, overflow and a hand-held shower sprayer.  One real positive feature ― and one that significantly increases the safety factor of any bathroom ― is the Walk-in Tub’s watertight door.  You can get in and out of the tub easily through its wide door that seals perfectly and its threshold step is a mere six inches high.  

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You can fill the tub to cover your back while seated and bathe yourself, without help from anyone else.  It also has a chrome grab bar inside the tub to assist the occupant in getting up and down.  In addition to its low-threshold access and egress, the slip-resistant floor and seat also add to the safety aspect of the tub.  The seat is normally ADA compliant (17 inches, which means there’s little or no strain on the back. 

As far as other features go, you can add air-jetted hydrotherapy and water jet massage to the features, along with an inline heater to keep the water warm.  Someone once commented to me, “This Walk-in Tub is like an amusement park for bathing.”  The important thing is the Walk-in Tub helps tremendously by making the bathtub area and the bathroom-at-large safer.
There are many things that can be done to make your home a safer place, not only for seniors, but for everyone.  Take the time to do an inventory of how you can make improvements. And keep in mind that one of the best investments you can make for your own safety (or for someone you love) is to invest in a Walk-in Tub.

In this article, I discussed some of the inherent dangers and accidents that can frequently happen in one's own home. I pointed out that the kitchen and bathroom are potentially the two most dangerous rooms in the house and why. I also explained why obtaining a Walk-in Tub greatly enhances the safety of one's bathroom, and gave an overview of its safety features and advantages. 

If you found this article useful, please share it with your family, friends and co-workers. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the Comment section of this blog. Thanks again for visiting with us.

Walk-in Tubs: Great for Seniors ... And Everyone Else. 

If you’d like to receive a FREE Walk-In Tub Buyers’ Guide, click here. Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and I’ll personally get back to you. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.  Happy Thanksgiving! 
 
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Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc., and SeniorBathtub.com  in Jacksonville, Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to Alan@tubking.com.

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