Sep 20, 2023 - Real Estate

How modifying your bathroom can help with fall prevention

Two photos of bathrooms, one showing a walk-in shower with sand-colored tiles and a green pothos plant on the windowsill, the other of a bathtub with silver grab bars attached to the gray tile walls.

Sherry Rehm, 66, and her husband included a curbless shower and grab bars in their bathroom renovation to help the couple age in place at their home in Holiday. Photos: Courtesy of Sherry Rehm

We recently told you about bathroom renovation trends and a reader responded with some savvy advice β€” just in time for the National Council on Aging's Falls Prevention Awareness Week, which began Monday.

  • "We remodeled our 1989 bathrooms not only for updated features but also to install beautiful designer grab bars to support aging in place," reader Sherry Rehm wrote, referring to the practice of remaining at home as you age rather than moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility.
  • "Our bathrooms are now not only more calming but safer," said Rehm, 66, of Holiday.

Why it matters: Falls are the leading cause of injury for adults 65 and older, according to the CDC. In some cases, they can be life-altering or fatal.

Plus: They're expensive. Health care costs associated with falls total $50 billion annually, with Florida incurring the highest cost of every state except California, per the CDC.

  • And the 911 calls that arise from them can tax local emergency systems. In Pinellas County, injuries related to falling led to 28,000 911 calls last year, according to county data shared with Axios.

Be smart: When it comes to staying upright, preparation is key, said Lori Collins, a Pinellas County public outreach coordinator who works on local fall prevention campaigns. Older adults should start planning home modifications well before they may need them.

  • Incorporating grab bars and "curbless" showers β€” walk-in showers without a step or lip β€” like Rehm did is a smart move, Collins said. She warned against using suction-cup grab bars.
  • For the more design-conscious, some bathroom manufacturers offer grab bar options that don't feel so institutional. Rehm's Delta-brand bars match her towel racks.

Plus: Smaller, less expensive changes can also help. Ensuring your bath mats have secure rubber bottoms, or tossing them altogether, can help prevent slipping.

  • Adding nightlights in bathrooms and hallways can illuminate any tripping hazards like shoes or dog toys.

What's next: As part of the awareness week, the Sunshine Senior Center in St. Petersburg is hosting a free Falls Prevention Road Show on Thursday. Vendors will provide health screenings, risk assessments and information on the latest prevention tools.

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