Learn What To Do After Falling In The Shower [Remain Calm & Assess the Situation]

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

The first thing to do after falling in the shower is to remain calm and gather yourself. Next, check for signs of injuries. Then, if it is safe to do so, roll to a better position and try to get to a seated position before attempting to stand.

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What should you do after you fall in the shower or bathtub? If you’re like me, you’ve probably not had to worry about this too much over the course of your life. Then again, if you’re like me, you’re not getting any younger, nor is the person you might be caring for.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that bathroom-associated injuries contribute to more than a quarter-million emergency room visits every single year. That’s over 600 people every single day among American adults (not just seniors mind you) that slip and fall in their bathroom and have a nonfatal injury.[1]

Slip-and-fall accidents account for 80 percent of these cases, and while statistics track people 15 and older, they predominantly happen to women and seniors. Those who can’t afford bathroom renovations are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, there are both preventive steps and reactionary moves to make, and I’ve outlined both plus more in the following sections.

What Should You Do After A Fall In the Shower?

Obviously, there are many preventative steps you take to prevent a fall in the shower. Some should be obvious to you already, and I have specific tips a few sections down. However, you still need to know what to do after a fall in the shower.

More than likely, it’s going to be losing your balance in your shower. If you have a grab rail or shower chair, get a hold of it if you can. If not, relax as you fall and protect your head using hands and forearms.

Once you land, don’t try to get back up immediately. In fact, lie still and collect your breath to get over your shock. The next step is checking yourself for any broken bones or cuts.

If you do have a cut and are bleeding, put pressure on it with your hand or with a towel. Stopping the bleeding is essential. Make sure you don’t have water running over it since this can keep the wound from coagulating and closing.

You might not actually feel broken bones immediately, so look for bruising or swelling on your limbs or visual deformities. Also, if you have a ‘floppy’ limb you can’t use, you may have broken something.

Summon help if you are able, use your medical alert system, and start considering whether or not you need to visit the ER or a doctor.

shower safety tips for the elderly

When Should You Seek Medical Attention After Falling?

Consider heading to the emergency room for any of the following:

  • Big wounds requiring stitches or proper cleaning
  • Foot or ankle pain of a serious nature
  • Warning signs of broken bones listed above
  • Concussion warnings such as sudden nausea, fatigue, blurred vision, dizziness, or ringing in your ears
  • Bleeding that won’t stop, particularly if you are on blood thinners

Even if you think you don’t need to visit an ER, you should still visit a doctor or physician, especially if any of the following present themselves:

  • You need medication for pain or an infection
  • You can hobble around but are in pain, possibly with a muscle pull or strain that risks another fall
  • Redness, swelling, bruising
  • Locked up joints possibly indicating torn ligaments
  • Time passes from your fall but you have persistent aches and pains

How Should You Get Back Up After Falling in the Shower or Tub?

If you’re unable to summon help, or you luckily didn’t injure yourself, then you might be able to get back up once you fall in the bathroom. Again, take a few moments to collect your breath and see if you have any injuries or pain.

If you can’t get up, summon help. Stay warm, and move the best you can during your wait.

If you aren’t hurt and feel up to it, try getting up. It varies for everyone, but the following process guides most:

  1. Roll to one side
  2. Push up into a side-sitting posture
  3. Get onto hands and knees slowly
  4. Crawl towards anything sturdy enough to support your rise, like a piece of furniture
  5. Kneel to the side of that piece of furniture with your stronger leg beside it, so you can slide your stronger leg’s foot ahead of you until flat on the floor
  6. Use both hands on your piece of furniture and push up until you get your buttocks into a seated position
  7. Wait a moment to collect yourself again and look over yourself for injuries

RELATED: Devices to Lift the Elderly off the Floor After a Fall

using shower shoes for elderly to reduce falls

What Are The Common Causes Of Bath And Shower Falls?

I love my bathroom time to be honest. It’s a place for refreshment and rejeuvenation, both of which I find increasingly important as my age keeps trending upwards. Unfortunately, my bathroom is full of hard surfaces, moisture, and slip and fall hazards, which also makes it a dangerous place.

I’ve been lucky so far, but hundreds of thousands each year aren’t. From that data, we’ve been able to learn certain things pointing to specific risk factors.

While many things can happen, the following are 7 common causes of bathroom and shower falls:

1) Obstacles

Most bathrooms aren’t going to be very open concept. They just can’t, otherwise, water would go everywhere. Still, high sides on a bathtub can feel like an Olympic hurdle for someone naked and wet.

2) Poor Accessibility

This can happen at the micro scale as well as the macro. The shower, toilet, and bathtub need to be easily reachable for anyone and anyone. However, so too do soap, towels, conditioner, shampoo, and toilet tissue. There are lots of bathroom accessories for seniors that can help with this.

3) Overexertion

Seniors and those of us not as strong as we used to be can find it hard to position ourselves on toilets, get into bathtubs and showers, or just get out of any of these plumbing fixtures. Without the right levels, grips, and seating, a bathroom can be an exhausting place, raising the risk of a fall.

4) Slippery Surfaces

While some homes in the northeast, with their brutally cold winters, might have carpet or rug in the bathrooms, most homes don’t. Nor can you carpet up your bathtub or shower. Some people do put scatter rugs down, thinking they’re helping, but they too are slip and trip risk factors. Only use non-slip bath mats designed for that purpose.

5) Poor Visibility

The older we get, the more likely we are to have to use the bathroom at night. Many skip turning on many lights, if any, for fear of waking themselves up too much, the glare, or bothering someone else still asleep. That lack of visibility is a tremendous risk factor for slips and falls. Nightlights are a big help to seniors for this problem.

6) No Grab Bars

These are essential for proper bathroom safety in the world of elder care. They can work preventatively to help someone you love to get in or out of the shower or tub, or on or off their toilet. They can also be something they can grab onto if they do start falling.

7) Hot Water

A great bathroom should have hot water, right? Not necessarily too hot. Seniors have skin that is thinner and a bit more delicate than our younger generations. That means it takes them longer to actually realize the water temperature is too hot. At best, that can mean too much moisture in the bathroom, but at worst, it can mean a scalding burn; both lead to falls.

How Can You Prevent Falls in the Bathroom?

Fall prevention doesn’t have to be complicated, arduous, or expensive. Believe me, it’s worth the investment of time and money.

  1. Just be careful. It might sound redundant, but it’s the truth.
  2. Put nonslip strips/mats in your shower/bathtub.
  3. Give your nonslip flooring higher company with grab bars, both inside and outside of your bathing fixture.
  4. Expand the grab bar family with some around the toilet. Use them sitting down and standing up.
  5. Clean up spills and wet areas immediately. A dehumidifier might help.
  6. Maintain strong muscles and a good balance with the right exercise.
  7. Learn your medications inside and out for side effects.
  8. Protect your vision. Bad eyes make it harder to stay safe anywhere.
  9. Also check your hearing annually, if not more often. Noticing sounds that might warn you of danger can help out a lot.

In Summary

Falls can and do happen in the bath and shower. Seniors fall more than anyone, and the results can be disastrous. Still, the right combination of knowledge, technology, and physical adjustments can make a bathroom much safer.

I hope you use all that you learned here to at least minimize your risk of bathroom falls, as well as know how to respond to any that happen.

Resource Links

I pulled the information I presented here from a number of authoritative sources. Enjoy each of them if you’d like to learn more about this essential subject. Use this information to protect yourself and those you love and care for.

  1. ABCNews.go.com – CDC Report Shows Bathroom Related Injuries Mean Thousands Of Medical Visits
  2. VisitingAngels.com – 7 Bathroom Safety Tips To Prevent Falls And Injuries
  3. BassAdvancedUrgentCare.com – Why You Should See A Doctor After A Fall
  4. NHSInform.Scot – What To Do If You Fall
  5. ASHA.org – Preventing Falls
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