Rashmi Karki, 41, who works for an NGO, lost her grandfather six months ago. He slipped and fell in the bathroom of their home in Kalanki, Kathmandu. He is 85 years old. “My brother found him unconscious in the bathroom. We took him to the hospital and the doctors pronounced him dead. They said he had a head injury,” Karki said.
Karki’s family had intended to make the bathroom “future-proof”. Karki’s family is concerned for their safety after a relative slipped and fell in the shower and broke her leg. They plan to install some grab bars along the walls for support and buy some grip pads for the shower area.
According to a World Health Organization report, falls are the leading cause of morbidity and the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths globally. Each year, 172 million people are injured, resulting in short- and long-term disabilities, and 646,000 people die from fall injuries.
Almost 80% of falls-related deaths and disabilities occur in low- and middle-income countries. A study by the Nepalese Surgeons Overseas Surgical Needs Assessment (SOSAS) estimated that 16,600 people die each year from falls in Nepal. The study also found that fall injuries were the most common type of injury among Nepalis, accounting for 37.5% of all accidents.
Dr Santosh Bhusal, a medical officer at the Minbhawan Civil Service Hospital in Kathmandu, said the risk of falls increases with age. This could be due to poor vision, drowsiness from side effects of medications, or weakness from various underlying medical conditions.
Bathroom falls are more common because tiles become slippery when wet. In October last year, CPN-UML leader Balkrishna Dhungel died after falling in the bathroom of his residence in Gotatar, Kathmandu. Fatal injuries aside, bathroom falls often result in hip dislocations and other compound fractures that take a long time to heal, especially in older adults, Dr. Bhusal said.
Prakash Duggar, chief executive officer of Kajaria Tiles Nepal, said safety should be a priority when designing bathrooms. Earlier, people chose glossy tiles because they were shiny and smooth. Today, matte tiles are favored for their non-slip properties. “Wholesalers and designers should also educate their customers and clients about the kinds of materials that should be used in bathrooms,” he says.
He also recommends installing grab bars near the toilet and in the bathtub. These are basically just steel rods, much like towel racks, but sturdier so you can grab them when you get up. A pole that bolts to the wall is better than a suction cup pole that moves or moves easily. They should also have a non-slip surface rather than a glossy finish. This could significantly reduce the number of falls for seniors, Duggar said, since most bathroom accidents occur in the shower or when trying to get up from the toilet.
Most of the people ApEx interviewed said they were aware of the risks of bathroom accidents. They say they often tell their grandparents, parents or children to be careful. But, despite all the precautions, accidents can happen. Duggar insists on matte tiles that won’t slip even with soap or shampoo.
Apparently, you can even install them on the floor of an old bathroom. At Kajaria, they have a tile option that can be placed on tile, marble or granite. “Your bathroom doesn’t have to be ripped out and redesigned if you’re scared,” says Duggar, adding that most traders these days recommend matte tile over glossy tile, but many sellers don’t bother to inform their customers.
Kunal Thapa, director of Yarpa Traders, says a lot of focus is on designing aesthetically pleasing bathrooms. But there are plenty of ways to stay safe without compromising on looks. “I believe construction companies and material suppliers have a responsibility to educate people about how their bathrooms should be designed to prevent accidents,” he said.
Beyond that, there are many easy ways to minimize the risk of slips and falls in the bathroom. One might be a shower chair with non-slip rubber tips attached to the legs. Thapa suggests considering lighting as well. Sometimes, accidents happen due to poor visibility. Karki, on the other hand, prefers a walk-in tub to a traditional tub that you have to climb over to get into. Her family has also started storing essentials within reach to avoid falls when stretching or bending over to wash shampoo or a loofah, she said.
“There’s nothing worse than losing a loved one or seeing them suffer because they didn’t take simple precautions,” Karki said.