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The bathroom is the second most dangerous room in the house to have a fall. That’s because hard surfaces are everywhere and there’s seldom furniture to catch your balance. A fall in the bathroom could be a moment when everything in your life changes changes.
If you fall in a shower, lie still for a few moments to catch your breath. Check yourself for cuts and broken bones and do not attempt to move if you are injured. Call out for help if someone is close by, or dial 911 emergency if a phone is at hand. If you are not seriously injured then crawl out to a safe place. Review your injuries in more detail. Do you need to see the doctor, or visit the emergency room right away?
What follows is basic information to help you decide if you need medical advice.
What happens if you slip in the shower?
Many elders have bad tumbles when they slip in a shower, or lose their balance. Unless there’s a handy grab rail or shower chair to grab on to, there’s only one way and that’s down. Try to relax as you fall. Protect your head with your hand or forearm if possible, and don’t panic.
Showers are small spaces with hard surfaces. They have taps sticking out walls and some have built in benches. If you fall then there’s a good change you’re going to bump your knees and elbows and possibly your head.
You may bump your head and even lose consciousness for a while. If not, it may still take you a few moments to realise what happened. So there you are, lying on the floor with water pelting down. What should you do to recover the situation?
If you have a waterproof panic button and can reach it, use it. If there are other people in the house, call out loudly. You don’t know what your injuries are yet. What do you do if you are all alone?
What should you do after the fall?
Take several deep breaths and remain still on the floor as you are lying. This helps you get over the shock according to the National Institute of Aging. Your first step when you are feeling calmer is check whether you are hurt, because you don’t want to make it worse by doing the wrong thing.
You are unlikely to have serious cuts because shower doors have safety glass. However scrapes and grazes are possible because our skin gets thinner as we age. It’s a real nuisance but that’s the way it is. Now it’s time to check for any broken bones.
These are the warning signs of possible broken bones:
- A swelling or bruising on your arm of leg
- The limb looks deformed or out of shape
- Your arm or leg hurts when you move it
- The limb is ‘floppy’ and you can’t use it
You can’t lie in the shower all day long. Roll your body over until you can crawl out the cubicle and get to a chair or bed that will help you up. Don’t try to use a broken leg or rest weight on it. If you could reach the shower taps you may as well turn them off as you leave.
Should I see a doctor after a fall?
So far so good; at least you are back on your feet and can maybe move around again. However, you still need do a more detailed self-assessment to decide if you should see a doctor. Here are some tipping points where you probably do.
- You can hobble around the house but you may need medication to control a cut or an infection
- You pulled or strained a muscle to the extent it limits the mobility of a joint. You may notice redness, bruising or swelling
- Your elbow or knee locks up in which case you may have torn a ligament that’s interfering with the joint
- It’s been a while since you fell in the shower but you are not back to normal. The aches and pains it caused are still there
You need to see a doctor if any of these apply. We are not spring chickens and our bodies don’t heal as fast as they did.
Should I go to the ER after a fall?
Our immune systems age like the rest of us. An injury that could be a walk in the park for a kid, can develop into something more serious for an elder. If you are in bad pain, discomfort or just don’t feel right, your injuries may be beyond what a doctor can do.
Here’s checklist of when you may need to visit the Emergency Room
- If your foot or ankle hurts badly when you take a few steps, you may have broken a bone
- If you have a large cut or wound that needs proper cleaning and stitching up tight
- If you have dizziness, ringing in ears, blurred vision, sudden fatigue or nausea you may have concussion
These things are unlikely to go away on their own. You need to visit the emergency room as soon as possible after your fall in the shower. If this just happened we recommend you take steps to do this now. They will know what to do and provide the necessary care.