Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors

When it comes to senior health and safety, fall prevention is always front of mind. Roughly 1 in 4 seniors over 65 experiences a fall every year according to the National Council on Aging while those with conditions that impact motor functions (like dementia and Parkinson’s) are at an even higher risk.

One of the most fall-prone environments in the home is the bathroom – slick tile, an abundance of water, and the oftentimes exerting tasks of bathing and toileting can all add up to a recipe for disaster. As a senior caregiver, keep these important bathroom safety tips in mind:

Bathing

Your loved one’s risk for falling may depend in part on the type of shower they use. For example, a tub shower that requires a senior to step in and lift their leg high over the outer lip poses a greater fall risk than a walk-in shower or tub.

Shower aids like waterproof transfer chairs and shower stools are a great option for persons who cannot stand for prolonged periods and who need extra assistance getting in and out of the shower. Additional bathing tools that improve safety and ease of bathing include:

  • Toiletry dispensers that fix to the wall (no more holding slippery shampoo bottles!)

  • Removable shower head with 5’ long cord

  • Non-slip bath mats or adhesive strips that provide more traction on the floor

  • Grab bars that install inside and outside the shower for added support when moving

  • Shower controls/faucet that are easy to use without getting wet and prevent accidental scalding

Toileting

Using the toilet may seem like the easiest task to complete in the bathroom but it surprisingly requires extra balance, coordination, and strength to sit down and rise up without issue. If your loved one has any type of mobility hindrance, upgrades like toilet seat risers with side rails could make a huge difference.

Toilet seat risers simply raise the toilet seat up a few inches so it is easier to sit down and get off of. Side rails provide additional support as well so your loved one has a sturdy fixture on which to bear their weight and balance themselves. It is also important to make sure that things like the toilet paper dispenser are not too far out of reach. The further your loved one has to lean, twist, or grasp, the higher their risk of falling.

Space

Navigating a small, cramped bathroom is itself a challenge, much less if you’re using a mobility aid like a walker, cane, or wheelchair. Less clutter and more space mean easier maneuvering for your loved one so make sure to remove unnecessary furniture and other items that could get in the way.

Also, consider making the most out of accessible space; that is, avoid storing items your loved one will need to use in high places or low cupboards. This prevents them from hurting themselves by reaching, stooping, or bending over.

Lighting

Often left out of the conversation, lighting plays one of the most important roles in helping prevent falls. In the bathroom, caregivers should make sure that:

  • Light switches are accessible (both inside and outside the doorway) and easy to use; opt for dimmers or toggles instead of smaller, narrower switches that require nimbler dexterity

  • Keep lighting consistent across rooms, i.e. use the same wattage bulbs from the living room to the bedroom and bathroom

  • Consider installing motion-sensor lighting that simply turns on when your loved one moves into the hallway and bathroom

  • Place blinds or curtains over bathroom mirrors to prevent glare on any mirrors from the sun streaming in

A simple stumble and fall to the ground may seem harmless at first, but falls often result in serious injury (broken bones, lacerations, etc.) and even death. Even simple upgrades to your loved one’s bathroom can have profound effects on their health and safety.

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.

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