If senior citizens live with you or frequently visit your home, you want to ensure their safety at all times. The bathroom should be no exception, and, believe it or not, it can be one of the most dangerous places of the home for anyone—but especially the elderly. In 2011, almost 200,000 people were brought to the ER due to accidents in the bathroom, and falls are a leading cause of injuries for senior citizens. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve bathroom safety for the elderly.
Here are some steps you can take to lessen the risk of falls or injuries in your bathroom. Need help remodeling your bathroom or advice about what would work best, C&W Plumbing is only a phone call away! Reach us at 972-395-3597.
1. Add a shower/tub seat.
Many accidents that happen within the bathroom occur in the shower or tub, partly due to the slippery surface. A simple solution is a shower or tub seat, which can make showering safe and comfortable, and alleviate the worry of a fall. A seat in the shower/tub is especially useful if your loved one has trouble balancing or standing for any amount of time.
Freestanding benches, built-ins, and folding benches are the basic types of shower seats available. Another option is a transfer bench, a seat that straddles both sides of the tub, making getting in and out extremely easy. No matter which seat you choose, equipping your shower with a hand-held shower head will make bathing even easier.
2. Convert your tub.
Consider converting your bathtub into either a walk-in tub or a shower. Many falls occur as someone steps into or out of the tub. Converting the space into a shower wouldn’t require your loved one to step over anything.
If you want to keep the option of bathing, consider a walk-in tub. These tubs are made with doors on the side and have come a long way in the last few years, offering convenient size options, seats, and features like whirlpool massage.
3. Install grab bars.
Getting in and out of the shower or up and down from the toilet can be particularly difficult for the elderly because it requires excellent balance and strength. If they do experience a fall or lose their balance, they may grab onto the towel rack, which is not meant to withstand the weight and could cause more problems.
Grab bars provide a sturdy, comfortable grip for moving about the bathroom, and they’re designed to hold a person’s weight, unlike a towel rack, which can detach from the wall. It’s helpful to install grab bars where your elders are already used to placing their hands for support, so the transition to using them is simple. This could include outside the shower or tub and next to the toilet. You should also choose a color that stands out from the color of the wall, so the grab bars are easy to see.
Keep in mind, grab bars are best for senior citizens who have upper body strength and should be slip-resistant.
4. Switch to a high-rise toilet seat.
Sitting down and standing up from a toilet seat can be very hard for seniors, particularly when the toilet seat is low. An elevated seat—usually about three to four inches above a typical toilet seat—can take some strain off the body. Although three to four inches may seem small, they really can make bending down and getting up easier. Adding grab bars around the raised seat is another way to increase safety.
5. Change out rugs for anti-slip mats.
Bathroom rugs may be pretty, match the room’s look, and make your feet feel nice, but they’re a hazard to the elderly. It’s easy to slip on them, especially during the already-difficult task of stepping in and out of the shower or tub. And although some cloth rugs claim to be non-slip, plastic is a more reliable option, since it’s less likely to develop hazardous folds.
Anti-slip mats both outside the shower and around the toilet can make a big difference. You may also want to think about adding non-slip mats to the shower floor to provide stable footing, especially if there isn’t a shower seat. A non-slip mat on the shower floor can help to alleviate issues with depth perception that senior citizens sometimes experience. You can even use non-slip adhesive strips on the sink in case the counter is ever grabbed for support.
6. Add nighttime lighting.
Seeing in the dark is a feat for many of us, but it can be especially tricky for the elderly. Solve this issue by adding:
- A night light
- Motion sensors
- Easy-to-find light switches
- Path lighting from your loved one’s bedroom to the bathroom
These can help prevent accidents in the bathroom and make it easier to get there in the middle of the night.
7. Set the water heater.
An accident that can sometimes occur during a shower, bath, or even washing up is hot water burns. You can help your loved one avoid this injury by presetting your hot water heater to heat only up to 120 degrees. This ensures the hot water in all your sinks and other plumbing will not rise above this temperature, keeping your loved one safe.
Updating your bathroom to fit the needs of the senior citizen in your home can help ensure their safety and health. Most bathroom injuries can be avoided with the proper equipment, safety measures, and installation. If you’re considering remodeling your bathroom to be safer—whether it’s simply adding grab bars, replacing your shower with a walk-in tub, or something else—C&W Plumbing can help!