One out of every three adults age 65 and older falls each year, with falls being the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among those in that age category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent injuries and reduce the risk of slips, falls and other accidents, particularly in the bathroom.
Here’s a list of 12 essential bathroom safety tips that may help reduce the risk of bathroom injuries.
1. Update an existing bathroom to an ADA handicap bathroom
Use the Americans with Disabilities Act’s specifications as a guideline to update an existing bathroom with safety products for seniors, such as grab bars, lever handles for the door(s) and more. If planning a full bathroom remodel, these guidelines will help your contractor with grab bar placement and doorway dimensions to accommodate a wheelchair as well as other clearance specifications for an ADA-compliant bathroom. Ensuring that ample space exists between the tub, toilet and sink allows better maneuverability for anyone using a walker or wheelchair and may lead to extended time and comfort to age in place in one’s own home.
2. Get an in-home safety consultation
Consider having a professional visit your home to assess your current living space and determine what updates can be made to enhance accessibility and safety for independent living. An in-home evaluation is an important first step in reaching out for professional advice, and can be invaluable when it comes to safety and design.
3. Install safety grab bars
Handicap rails for bathroom walls near the toilet and both inside and outside of the tub or shower can help provide stability for seniors and anyone else with limited mobility. Many are ADA compliant and can go a long way in providing leverage and independent living for seniors with mobility issues. Any existing towel racks should be checked and properly secured in case they are leaned on for support.
4. Remove loose throw rugs from bathrooms
Throw rugs may add to the warmth and décor of a bathroom, but they present a slip-and-fall hazard to seniors and others with limited mobility. Remove the loose throw rugs, especially from in front of the shower or tub. Replace with a non-skid, latex-coated mat to provide firmer footing.
5. Add non-slip safety strips/mat inside the tub and shower
Even if using grab bars and a shower seat, it’s best to also install non-slip strips or a stay-put suction mat to the floor of the tub and shower. Even when dry, the floor of the tub and/or shower can be slick and a fall hazard. No-slip mats are an easy way to prevent injuries and improve the safety of the bathroom.
6. Install a hand-held shower wand
A hand-held shower head is simple to install and essential for the bather using a tub seat. It allows you to direct the water where you want it to go and even to adjust the force of the water as needed. This can help prevent water spills which can lead to unnecessary falls.
7. Consider a walk-in tub or shower
Increase comfort, safety and independence with a walk-in shower or tub. With low-level or barrier-free entry, installing a walk-in tub or shower is an ideal solution for many aging in place seniors, as well as those with mobility issues or disabilities. Plus, many offer massaging jets to relieve sore, arthritic muscles and aromatherapy for extra relaxation.
8. Increase the bathroom lighting
Utilize bathroom lighting that is bright and natural, not glaring or too dim. A light switch by the door is best. Update electrical wiring if necessary to allow for a light switch right inside the door and bright light throughout the entire room. Keep a nightlight at sink level to provide additional light, ideally one with a darkness sensor so it will turn on automatically.
9. Raise the toilet seat
For any senior suffering from mobility issues, arthritis, or back, hip or knee problems, maneuvering down to a standard height toilet can be a challenge. Adding an adjustable toilet seat or toilet seat extender can inexpensively increase overall height.
10. Upgrade labels for safety
Often bottles and tubes of personal care items and medication can look similar. Adding your own, larger print label that is clear and easy to read can reduce the risk of potentially dangerous product mix-ups. Remember to keep all medication out of reach of children who may be visiting.
11. Switch to a single-lever bathroom faucet
A single-lever faucet is often easier to grip for someone with stiff or arthritic hands, which makes it simpler to control water temperatures. This can help reduce the risk of scalds and burns. An additional safety product to consider is an anti-scald device which can be installed on tub faucets and shower heads to prevent accidental burns.
12. Fix anything that’s broken
Repairing broken items may be a simple way to prevent an injury and keep the bathroom safe for seniors. Maybe some tiles have chipped leaving sharp edges or some towel racks have loosened which could easily fall if leaned on. Leaky shower doors or curtains could cause the floor to get soaked and slippery. Small repairs could end up making a big difference in terms of safety for a stay at home senior.
We can visit your home and provide a professional opinion to help you create a safer bathing experience to reduce the risk of future injuries.