What Should You Do If You Fall In The Bathroom? (& What NOT To Do)

Occupational Therapist
Published:

Knowing what to do when a fall occurs in the bathroom is almost as important as preventing falls in the first place. Here's what you should do if you or a senior loved one falls in the bathroom.

Fall In The Bathroom
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Despite utilizing the most creative and innovative fall prevention techniques, accidents happen – even in the safest of all bathrooms.

Not all ground-level falls can be stopped, especially among seniors. Even though it’s essential for seniors and caregivers to know how to prevent falls, it’s just as important to know what to do when a fall has already occurred.

This article will discuss what falls look like in the shower or bathtub, while using the toilet, plus general bathroom slips and falls. We’ll also let you know what to do when seniors are alone during a fall and what caregivers should do.

Falls in Shower or Bathtub

Understanding what possible falls may look like in the shower or tub may help seniors problem-solve ways to prevent falls in the future.

Remember, not everyone is going to fall the exact same way. Here are a few possible scenarios in a shower or tub:

  • Tripping over the tub’s ledge during a transfer in or out of a shower-tub combination.
  • Slipping while standing unsupported (aka without the use of a grab bar) in the shower.
  • Sliding off a shower chair or shower bench in the middle of a sit-to-stand transfer. Sometimes this happens because the feet are too slippery or the thigh muscles aren’t strong enough to sustain the transfer.
  • A cardiac or respiratory episode while in the shower causes shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, etc.
  • Grabbing a shower rod or curtain for support and it comes crashing down with you.
  • Managing a shower or tub routine without glasses and falling as a result of not seeing well.
fall in the bathroom while using
You can slide off the toilet and onto the floor when you lack strength.

Falls While Using Toilet

Like the shower or bathtub, the toilet can also be an area of concern for falls. Here are a few common scenarios:

  • Missing the toilet when going to sit and instead falling to the ground.
  • Lacking the strength and energy to complete a sit-to-stand transfer from the toilet and instead, you slide off the toilet and onto the floor.
  • Experiencing a medical episode while on the toilet, resulting in tipping or toppling over.
  • Falling asleep while on the toilet resulting in toppling over and onto the floor.
  • Pushing up or off towel racks, door knobs, or other weak supports buckle and send you flying to the floor.

General Bathroom Slips and Falls

As if the bathroom is not already becoming a scary place with our potential falls list, here are a few more concerns to add:

  • Tripping or sliding on slippery or decorative throw rugs.
  • Tripping on doorway thresholds.
  • Catching your walker or can on doorways, corners, or decorative trims.
  • Tangling your oxygen cord while walking through the bathroom.
  • Falling as a result of a poorly lit bathroom and hallway.
  • Sliding out on a wet floor after a shower or bath.
  • Tripping on unnecessary floor clutter or small pets.
  • Supporting your weight on towel racks, loose drawers, door knobs, or other poor supports rather than walkers or stationery countertops.

What to Do If You Are Alone

The good news about falling is that you can’t fall any further once you have fallen. First things first: inspect you and how your body fared after landing on the floor:

  • Start from the head and work your way down: Does your head hurt? Are you dizzy? Do you know who you are, where you are, and what just happened?
  • Work down your body and acknowledge any pain, lack of sensation, or trouble moving any of your limbs or spine.
  • Suppose you have concluded that you are not injured and can move. In that case, your priority is to move to access emergency services. Even if this means doing it in the nude, it’s better than staying on the bathroom floor for days and getting malnourished. Scoot, crawl, or even walk to a phone or a fall alert system. Call a loved one or emergency services.
  • If you are injured, and can’t move to access a phone, then it’s time to muster that scary scream and start yelling. Holler like your life depends on it (because it does) until someone can hear you, a family member, a neighbor, anyone. You keep yelling until someone comes to your aid.
fall in the bathroom caregivers
Be mentally and physically prepared when helping your senior loved one.

What Should Caregivers Do?

Having someone else around is the best-case scenario in the event of a fall. This means that a senior is less likely to be hospitalized from related malnourishment, dehydration, and the consequences of missed medication.

If a caregiver is present while a senior incurs a ground-level fall, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Don’t panic because that doesn’t help anyone. As mentioned, they have already fallen and can’t fall any further. Stay calm for your loved ones so you are mentally and physically prepared to help them.
  • Talk to them and ask them the important questions: Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where does it hurt? Are there any parts of your body that you have trouble moving?
  • Do a full body inspection starting with the head. Ask them the basic who, when, and what questions to see if their mental capacity has been affected. Then move down until you hit the feet.
  • If you have little to no training in fall recovery, call emergency services just to play it safe. Cover up your loved one to help them maintain their dignity when paramedics arrive. 
  • If your loved one wants to attempt to sit up or recover from the floor, dry the floor and their body before proceeding with the transfer. Please do NOT attempt to get them off the floor until you’ve completed all the previous steps.

Summary and Final Recommendations

Falls can be intimidating and scary, especially for seniors and caregivers who are experiencing these incidences for the first time.

Remain calm, do a full body inspection before attempting any recoveries from the floor, and prioritize access to emergency services as quickly as possible.

If you are concerned about falls in the future, assess your bathroom for common safety hazards and alter your bathroom design to address them.

Talk to a rehabilitative specialist or your primary physician about possible fall recovery education and how to access courses or training.

Consider all of the possible fall scenarios we’ve provided for you and calculate how you would best prevent future falls in your bathroom.

Photo of author

Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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