Shocking CDC Statistics About Bathroom Injuries – and What You Can Do to Prevent Them


By Alan Knight   

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Mention the initials “CDC” in a conversation today, and most people are well aware about what organization   Especially in light of the ongoing concern and news articles pertaining to Ebola, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has virtually become a household acronym. 
you’re referring to.  According to its charter:  

"The CDC works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same."

In addition to the ramifications of Ebola and a wide range of other infectious diseases is just a portion of this organization’s important work.  For example, the CDC has an entire portion of its website (and I’d likewise assume personnel and resources) solely dedicated to “Home & Recreational Safety.”  Among its various sub-specialties:  
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  • FallsOlder Adults
  • Falls – Children
  • Prescription Drug Overdose
  • Concussion in Sports
  • Water-Related Injuries
  • Poisoning
  • Fires
  • Playground Injuries
  • Bicycle-Related Injuries
  • Dog Bites 
 “We want a society where older adults can live safe, healthy and independent lives. While falls are a threat to the health of older adults and can significantly limit their ability to remain self-sufficient, the opportunity to reduce falls has never been better.  Today, there are proven interventions that can reduce falls and help older adults live better,” the organization states. 

Consequently, in 2011, the CDC issued it’s first-ever report, “Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years ― United States, 2008,”which documented the incidence and circumstances of nonfatal bathroom injuries.  

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The reported stated there were 21.8 million persons over the age of 15 who sustained a nonfatal, unintentional injury from falling.  Significantly, the fiduciary costs of these accidents totaled over $67 billion in lifetime medical costs.


An estimated 234,094 nonfatal bathroom injuries among persons aged 15 years and over were treated in U.S.  “Approximately 80% of all bathroom injuries were caused by falls, with the highest injury rates in the oldest age groups.  For adults aged ≥65 years, falls often cause serious injuries, such as hip fractures, attributed in part to osteoporosis, a metabolic disease that makes bones porous and susceptible to fracture. This study found that older adults had the highest fracture rates and were hospitalized most often.”

Of particular note, in the opening paragraph of the report is the statement, “Information about where injuries occur is limited, but bathrooms commonly are believed to be a particularly hazardous location… All persons, but especially older adults, should be aware of bathroom activities that are associated with a high risk of injury and of environmental modifications that might reduce that risk.”  

Gender Issues


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According to the report, injuries sustained by elderly women were a whopping 72% higher than the rate for men. “Studies consistently have shown that women are at higher risk than men for falling and for sustaining fall-related injuries. This difference might be related to gender differences in physical activity, lower-body strength, bone mass, circumstances surrounding the fall, or greater willingness to seek medical treatment.” 


Age Factors 

Not surprisingly, injuries that were sustained in or around the bathtub or shower concomitantly increased as people got older.  The following verbiage from the report is particularly sobering for aging seniors: “Injury rates increased with age, and most injuries (81.1%) were caused by falls.  The most frequent diagnosis was contusions or abrasions (29.3%). The head or neck was the most common primary part of the body injured (31.2%).  Most patients (84.9%) were treated and released from the ED [Emergency Department]; 13.7% were treated in the ED and subsequently hospitalized."  

Location 

 

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Guess what activities contributed to the large number of falls?  Bathing, showering, or getting in and out of the tub or shower. (The other area was from standing up or sitting down or using the toilet.)  The two areas of the bathroom where most falls occurred were “in or around the tub or shower (65.8 per 100,000) and injuries that happened on or near the toilet (22.5 per 100,000).”


"For all ages, the most hazardous activities were bathing, showering, or getting out of the tub or shower.  Approximately two thirds of all injuries occurred in the tub or shower, and approximately half were precipitated by bathing or showering, slipping, or getting out of the tub or shower.”

Additional Findings & Recommendations

 

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The CDC report made special mention of the fact that according to the Home Safety Council's 2004 report, “The State of Home Safety in America,” 63% of U.S. homes used bathtub mats or nonskid strips to help reduce bathtub falls.  However, less than 20% of private homes had grab bars. (The report noted that assisted-living facilities and nursing homes were more likely to have them, however.) The authors emphasized “adding grab bars both inside and outside the tub or shower might help prevent bathroom injuries to all household residents.”


The report also recommended that seniors should learn “effective fall prevention strategies” that would focus on specific exercises to improve strength and balance (Yoga comes to mind here. Have you ever seen photographs of elderly Indian yoga masters? They have incredible strength and balance.) 

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The report also recommends a medication review by a senior’s healthcare provider.  Many drugs in and of
themselves can cause dizziness. In combination with other prescriptions ― which is often the case with the elderly ― the side effects that can make seniors more susceptible to falls can be dangerously amplified.  The authors of the report also highly recommend that all adults, and in particular older adults, their families and their caregivers need to become aware of how certain activities in the bathroom can result in more frequent injuries “notably getting out of tubs and showers and getting on and off toilets.”

A Personal Concern


As Baby Boomers with aging parents, my brother Kerry and I are personally aware of these sobering statistics.  You may recall that as Kerry wrote in a previous blogs our own elderly mother has fallen several times.  And being in this business, we hear harrowing stories about the ramifications of seniors falling every day.  A sobering statement in the CDC’s report emphasizes, “Preventing falls and subsequent injuries in this vulnerable older population is critical.”   

Our Solutions

 

That’s why we’re proud to offer two excellent products that have repeatedly proven effective for preventing falls for the elderly and those individuals who may, for whatever reason, have mobility issues that are exacerbated by every day activities in the bathroom, particularly bathing and showering. 

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Our Walk-in Tub offers several safety features that are specifically designed to eliminate the risk of falling.  You can read more in-depth information about each of these features in some of our previous blogs such as “Is Your Bathroom a Safe Haven or a Minefield?” “How to Avoid Needing a Senior Nursing Home?” “The Dangers of Bathrooms – Falling is a Family Matter,” but to especially highlight several of Walk-in Tubs’ “user-friendly” design elements:
  • Low Threshold, watertight door/High Sides
  • Nonslip surfaces, especially its ADA-compliant seat
  • Strategically placed interior grab bar
  • Ergonomically placed controls (temperature, handheld shower wand, hydrotherapy controls)
 
If you’re looking for a “safety solution” for the entire bathroom, our brand new product, Safety Suite Showers, features no-threshold and low-threshold showers. They can be custom-configured to suit the need of the individual in regards to orientation (placement of the seat, temperature controls, handheld shower wand, etc.). They also feature several different grab bars built into the shower, including one right over the often-used temperature controls. 

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But that’s not all.  You can also enhance the safety of the bathroom environment by adding matching grab-bar outfitted accessories such as towel racks, and toilet paper handles. (For more information, see our previous blog, “What’s New in Showers? Sophistication Today, Safety Tomorrow.”)


True, the bathroom can be a dangerous environment, especially for seniors.  But by being proactive and by taking several preventative measures to thwart or diminish these dangers, you and your loved ones can remain safer in the bathroom, particularly when bathing or showering.   

In this article, I discussed the sobering findings of an official report issued by the Centers for Disease Control entitled, “Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years ― United States, 2008.” The report noted that “For all ages, the most hazardous activities were bathing, showering, or getting out of the tub or shower.  Approximately two thirds of all injuries occurred in the tub or shower, and approximately half were precipitated by bathing or showering, slipping, or getting out of the tub or shower.”  I cited other data presented in the report, including some of the authors’ suggestions for safety improvement.  I then discussed the numerous safety benefits of our Walk-in Tubs and our new Safety Suite Shower. 

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.

The Benefits of Walk-in Tubs for Seniors

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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.