Grab on to Safety!

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By Renée Henning

A fall can be dangerous, especially for older Americans.  It may result in injury – or death.  

Below are three ideas to help keep you and your family safe from spills. (I wish I had thought of making these home improvements BEFORE I fell off a bike and broke my foot.)  

Unless you are capable of doing the work yourself, you should hire a handyman (or woman).

Replace Towel Racks With Grab Bars

The New York Times called the bathroom the most dangerous room in the house. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 234,000 people in a twelve-month period visited emergency departments in the United States for bathroom injuries. Approximately 81% of the injuries were caused by falls.

Senior citizens are among those, especially at risk. According to Next Health, “more than 1 in 3 seniors over age 65 fall each year and The National Institute on Aging (NIA) states that 80% of these falls are in the bathroom.”

To reduce the risk, you can replace towel racks with grab bars, as shown in the first photograph.

Add a Grab Bar to the Shower

Sometimes a physical condition, such as a broken leg or a disability, makes it difficult for a family member to use a slippery bathtub. However, shower stalls are also hazardous.  Many lack a grab bar.  Furthermore, they have a raised sill.  This barrier makes it hard for bathers who are unsteady on their feet to enter and exit.

To help, you can add a chair and a grab bar.  (See the second picture.)  The person seated in the shower can stand by pulling up on the bar.  Then, for aid in stepping over the threshold, he can hold that bar with one hand while clutching the outside bar.

Install a Grab Pole in the Attic

Attics are typically used for storage.  But as people age, it becomes harder to stay upright while moving between the top step of a folding ladder and an attic.  To complicate matters, the person on the stair may be carrying an object that sets him off balance.

I solved the problem by asking a handyman to install a pole near the top of the ladder.  He cut a metal bar to the correct size and, as I requested, fastened it to a rafter.  (See the third photo.)  Now trips to the attic are easier – and safer.

In hindsight, I recommend one change.  My column is on the left side of the entrance to the attic (for a reason that turned out to make little difference).  Yet the majority of Americans are right-handed.  A right-side pole would facilitate the transition from the ladder’s handrail to the pole and back.

Conclusion

For the total cost, I paid a handyman firm $267 for the replacement of two towel bars embedded in old ceramic tiles, $125 for the shower grab bar job, and $145 for the attic pole project.  Other companies or individuals may charge less or more.

It would be wise to make the three modifications before you need them.  These upgrades could avert injuries and allow you to live longer in your own home.

Renée Henning is an attorney and an international author. Her written work has appeared in her nonfiction book Mystery and the Adopted Child and in other publications in North America (e.g., Washington Post), Europe (e.g., Oslo Times), Asia (e.g., ActiveMuse), Africa (e.g., Modern Ghana), and Oceania (e.g., Freelance).