No matter how much we try to make our domestic environment as safe as possible, accidents still happen. Problem is, on the whole, we're not very good at safety-proofing our homes - particularly in later life when we are more prone to injury.
At Bathing Solutions, we set out to explore this issue because it’s something many of our customers struggle with. We’ve discovered that household injuries in later life are common, particularly as a result of falling or tripping over. We’ve also learnt that we’re not very good at talking about it and this is resulting in some worrying behaviours.
But we must talk about it. This is a start to an important conversation we hope to continue with you.
Our research findings reveal that rate of injury in the home is high, with 45% of over 55s saying they, or an elderly relative, have injured themselves. Although most people sustained only a minor injury (77%) , for a significant minority the incident caused a major (16%) or even a lifechanging injury (6%).
Falls account for an astonishing 75% of injuries, with respondents citing ‘falling due to loss of balance or other personal failing’ (40%) , ‘tripping in the house or garden’ (29%) and ‘slipping on a wet floor’ (6%) . Falls are also a frequent occurrence. One in five (19%) say they, or an elderly relative, have fallen more than twice in the past year.
Falls are most likely to take place in the garden, although the living room, stairs, kitchen and bathroom follow closely behind. The fewest falls occur in the hallway, making it the safest space in the home.
More than one in three (36%) over 55s think the stairs are the most dangerous place in the home, but only 9% of injuries are due to falling on the stairs.
Nearly a third (30%) of over 55s believe they, or an elderly relative, would not tell a family member if they fell in the home. This is worrying and a further sign that as a society we view falling as a stigma.
At the same time, fear of falling is keeping 39% of over 55s from doing a daily activity. The highest number (14%) say they, or an elderly relative, have stopped gardening. Known for its therapeutic benefits, we also know this activity gives people over the age of 65 the most pleasure in life . Not being able to potter in the garden for fear of falling is directly affecting their quality of life.
It is also concerning that nearly one in ten (9%) say they, or an elderly relative, have stopped washing daily. Although it's not essential to wash every day, many people like to bathe often. Bathing is an important self-care activity. Not only is being clean a potent barrier against infection, a good scrub or soak at the beginning or end of a long day can be the best way to refresh or relax.
Although 57% of over 55s say mobility aids would give them, or an elderly relative, a greater sense of independence in the home, only 39% have taken precautions to prevent themselves or a relative falling over in future by installing grab rails or bathroom aids or improving the quality of their flooring.
No one wants to be a faller. Thing is, the risk of falling becomes greater with age, and we agree in large numbers that this scares us. These twin realities should unite us but instead they tend to do the opposite.
Many people equate falling over with being less capable or less physically active. The result is that we don’t tell anyone when it happens to avoid negative perceptions or changes in behaviour; or we avoid situations where the risk of falling over is higher.
In both scenarios, we can become more socially isolated.
Our collective fear of falling is no secret, so let's stop treating it as one. We need to learn how to live with the fear, rather living in fear, so we can continue to enjoy the things we love.
By sharing the facts about household injuries, and falls in particular, we hope to empower you and your family with an understanding of just how common it is.
Reconsider your views about falling in light of the information provided in this report. Perhaps then it will be possible to participate in an open and non-judgmental conversation about our fear of falling and its effect. Over time, this will help defeat the stigma associated with falling.
Nothing validates a stigma more than being told your frailty requires serious lifestyle restrictions and changes. This is not the case. A few small adjustments can help prevent falling or mitigate the negative effects if you do have a fall.
The hallway may be the safest place in the home, but little of life takes place there. Instead our focus should be on ensuring rooms that are rich in life are as safe as possible
Clearing everyday clutter, like bags, electrical cords and pet bowls, small pieces of furniture and rugs will ensure you have enough room to walk safely about the home.
Eyesight diminishes with age, so it’s important to make sure you have enough lighting at entrances, in each room and on the stairs. Use bulbs with the highest wattage recommended for the fixture.
Using a non-slip mat on the floor of your bath or shower and grab rails to help you get in and out, will dramatically reduce the risk of falling. You may want to consider a wet room, walk-in shower or walk-in bath if you struggle with your mobility.
Store heavier or frequently used items at an easy to reach height and clean up all spillages immediately, ensuring the floor is left dry.
Stairs are one of the most dangerous places in the home. Install handrails on both sides to avoid slips or to help you regain your balance if you do fall.