Outdoor biffies were safer than modern bathrooms

Call me a chicken. I don’t care. I refuse to take a bath. Showers? Sure. Any day. But baths? No way.

My last bath might have been as far back as 1998 before I injured one knee. The joint refused to bend sufficiently to sit in a tub. Climbing out was impossible. I could as well have been wearing a splint from mid thigh to mid calf.

About that time I began reading news stories about seniors who had nearly met their end in their home bathroom. First was the tale of an 84 and 85-year-old couple in Smithers who were trapped for five days in their bathroom when the doorknob on the inside refused to grab and open the door.

The wife had gone into the bathroom to help her Azheimer’s husband dress. They had water and electric light but no food. To warm the room she turned on the lights. Renovations were going on next door but the workers couldn’t hear the woman’s yelling or see the couple. The bathroom had no window.

Finally a friend who had a date to take the wife to a social event grew curious when she failed to answer her door, peeked in the bedroom window, and finding the bed unmade – a sign of something amiss – called police.

From that news item on, stories of bathroom mishaps cropped up with regularity.

This Associated Press article is dated April 3, 2001:

Euclid, Ohio. Mary Sefancic, 74, spent four days trapped in her bathtub at home after falling into it.

She was found hungry, thirsty and cold on Sunday by police who had been called by a neighbour. She was taken to hospital and is listed in fair condition.

Stefancic told police she was about to draw a bath for herself Wednesday when she fell in to the tub, fully clothed.

Police said she had no broken bones but she could not lift herself out of the tub because of the high sides.

Stefancic went four days without food and was barely able to drink from the faucet in the tub because it was difficult to operate.

Her neighbour had become concerned after not seeing Stefancic for days. She telephoned repeatedly, came over and rang the doorbell and knocked on windows but heard nothing but the woman’s dogs barking. She finally called police.

And over a long weekend in an Ontario city a 50- year-old woman checking on an office building used a toilet in the complex, fell down between the toilet and the cubicle wall where she wedged, unable to extricate herself. Staff found her when they returned to work.

Bathrooms are a common site for celebrities to meet their maker, some from drugs – like Elvis – or from straining on the toilet. Straining can trigger a heart attack.

Google “deaths in bathrooms” if you want to learn how many deaths occur in bathrooms. Thousands. Falling while getting into or out of a tub or shower leads the ranks. Grip bars around a tub or shower are a vital safeguard.

In addition seniors do well to sign up for Medic Alert. Carrying a cell phone is fine if you can reach it in an emergency. Also important, have family, friends or neighbours check in on you regularly.

Posties, too, can watch for piling up mail or flyers and ask police to check the home.

At least if I’m injured in a shower I’m unlikely to drown.

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