040 HPM 0517

HPM May 2017

40 BATHROOMS & SHOWERS It’s time to ban the F-word in the bathroom Falls are the most frequent and serious type of accident among pensioners and prevention is better than cure, especially in the bathroom. AKW’s James Dadd explores the increasing need for safer bathrooms as the population ages and offers advice for creating accessible spaces Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, with 424,000 people dying as a result globally each year and a further 37.3 million requiring medical attention. Although they can happen at any time of life, the risk increases with age and frailty level, and older people are more vulnerable to falls, particularly if they also have a long-term health condition. Research shows that about a third of people aged 65 and over fall annually, with this rising to as many as 42% of those who are 70 years and older and 50% for the over 80s. A large number of those that fall endure lasting impaired mobility and fractures, including 70,000 hip fractures in England alone annually – an injury that after which 50% of sufferers are left no longer able to live alone independently. Psychological consequences Equally, the psychological consequences of falls include everything from destroyed confidence and fear to increased isolation as about one in ten older people who fall become too afraid to leave their home. Aside from the personal impact, the cost to health and care services is colossal. Falls in the over 65s represent more than half of all hospital admissions for accidental injury and account for more than four million hospital bed days each year in England. The cost to the NHS is estimated at around £2 billion annually, while the community and social care costs are about four times of that in the 12 months following a fall. As the population continues to age at an alarmingly rate this impact looks set to increase exponentially. Yet many falls could and, as we can see, absolutely should be Falls in the over 65s represent more than half of all hospital admissions for accidental injury prevented by removing environmental hazards and adapting rooms in the home – where falls are the most common accident. The bathroom is a good place to start, as it can be a particularly dangerous space, where the combination of trip hazards, wet surfaces and hard flooring can increase the risk of accidents. Perhaps the most obvious way to limit the chance of falls in the bathroom is with the installation of grab rails that are strategically positioned to suit the specific needs of the user in the space available. If they are situated on a wall that is not easily within reach the resident will have to overstretch to reach it, which could, in fact, increase the risk of falls. They also need to be designed with the user’s dexterity in mind, with the best styles being those that are ergonomically designed, or those with a fluted surface for additional grip. Elsewhere in the bathroom it is important to consider what other items users might instinctively grab to support themselves and ensure they are fixed securely to the wall. In the case of radiators and pipework, low surface temperature models are advised to prevent burn injuries and boxing in pipework is always the best option. Meanwhile, a fixed shower seat and raised toilet with a drop-down grab rail alongside makes the process of getting on and off safer and more comfortable, reducing the risk of falling. Another option in the shower is to install devices that feature adaptations as part of their design, such as the iCare electric shower from AKW, which has a load-bearing riser rail that doubles up as a grab rail if the user needs extra support while washing. As well as giving the client suitable mobility aids, it is also critical to remove all trip hazards in the bathroom. Traditional shower cubicles and bathtubs mean the user has to step up and into the area to wash, increasing the risk of a fall or slip substantially. Instead, a level access wetroom eliminates any chance of tripping over, as there are no raised lips to overcome. Furthermore, the threshold to the bathroom itself should be level and flush to prevent trips and the door should open and give enough room for the user to enter the centre of the room without having to turn around to close it first. There are many options for creating a safer bathroom. As with most jobs, it is essential to design a space that is suited to the individual client’s needs for a truly accessible and safe room that will not only limit the risk of falls, but also increase the confidence and independence of users for enhanced dignity and a better quality of life. www.hpmmag.com May 2017 enquiry number 124 “Research shows that about a third of people aged 65 and over fall annually, with this rising to as many as 42% of those who are 70 years and older and 50% for the over 80s”


HPM May 2017
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