18 Essential Tips for Improving Bathroom Safety for Seniors

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18 essential tips for improving bathroom safety for seniors

Bathrooms are often taken for granted as safe spaces, and as a result, it poses unexpected hazards, particularly for seniors and those with mobility issues. In the United States, slips and falls in bathrooms account for a significant number of hospitalizations among the elderly. Given that showers amplify these risks by adding water to already slippery surfaces, combined with the decreased strength and balance many seniors face, it’s a potential recipe for disaster.

If you live with an elderly loved one, how can you make the bathroom and showering experience safer for them? In this article, we will share 18 tips to ensure bathroom safety for seniors. 

1. Ensure Adequate Lighting

Bathroom lighting

You don’t usually trip over things you can see. Adequate lighting is a key ingredient to a safe bathroom. This is especially true for seniors and other individuals with vision impairments. As BathFitter.com warns us, accidents are bound to happen when you combine reduced lighting with steam.

“The perfect lighting setup needs to be bright enough so the elderly can see what they are doing, but not too bright that it dazzles or blinds them, which often could result in dizziness and a loss of balance,” informs the website, “Replace existing low-light bulbs with brighter bulbs to create a more comfortable and visible environment.”

2. Ensure the Path to the Bathroom Is Clear of Obstacles

Organized towels and toiletries

The walking space in your bathroom must be completely clear of any obstacles. Removing potential tripping hazards is a top way to reduce the risk of slips and falls. For example, put all toiletries, cleaning products, and cosmetics in your cupboards and cabinets. As well, do away with throw rugs. They are known to bunch up and create uneven surfaces. Opt for non-slip mats instead.

“Keeping things tidy is one of the easiest – and most important – steps you can take to help seniors avoid bathroom falls,” insists Albin of Interpid USA, “Most bathrooms are relatively cramped spaces already, and additional clutter makes navigating this space even more challenging. In addition, the bathroom floor must be free of clothing and other objects that might cause a senior to stumble.”

3. Regularly Clean the Bathroom

To ensure maximum traction, the bathroom floor needs to be kept dry. The best way to do this is to regularly mop and clean the bathroom floors. This can help reduce slippery surfaces and prevent falls. 

You should also take extra care when mopping around toilets and showers, as these areas tend to produce more soap scum than other areas. To make cleaning easier and faster, consider installing anti-slip tiles or rubber mats in the shower area. 

4. Make the Bathroom Slip and Fall-Proof

Avoid slips and falls in the shower

Perhaps, one of the most obvious steps is to turn the slippery surfaces of a bathroom slip-proof. This is usually done by placing bathmats in the bathtub and rugs with rubber backings on the floors. It’s imperative that the rugs have those rubber backings. Throw rugs are commonly known for being tripping hazards. The last thing you want to do is add yet another danger to the bathroom.

5. Avoid Wet Floors; Wipe Up Spills Immediately

Another obvious step is to make sure you avoid wet floors by wiping up spills immediately. Wet surfaces are one of the biggest culprits for slips and falls in any part of the house, so it’s important to keep them as dry as possible. If you have a senior living with you, consider having a “no water outside of shower or tub” rule. This will keep the floor as dry as possible and thus lower the risk of slips and falls. 

6. Install Grab Bars

Install bathroom grab bars

Grab bars are popular additions to bathrooms in homes where seniors with mobility issues live. As their name suggests, grab bars are designed so that users of the bathroom can easily grab them. Of course, this adds some stability and balance to the user, helping to significantly reduce the risk of slips and falls.

According to Rachel Hartman on Bankrate.com, a February 2105 report by Software Advice found that installing grab bars, handrails, or both was seniors’ most common home safety modification.

“Grab bars help with stability and can prevent slips and falls,” agrees Karen Frazier on LoveToKnow.com, “Likewise, a grab bar installed near the entrance to a tub or shower will give the senior something to hold onto when stepping over the edge of the tub. Install grab bars at arm height and one at about waist height. You can also install a grab bar next to the toilet so seniors can pull themselves up and safely lower themselves.”

7. Raise the Toilet Seat

Believe it or not, the supposedly simple tasks of sitting down and standing up are much harder for people with mobility issues. Especially for elderly people who have balance issues, a raised toilet seat can make visits to the bathroom a lot safer. In addition to a raised toilet seat, a grab bar installed by the toilet can help to ensure one doesn’t lose his/her balance in the bathroom.

“In addition to the tub, the toilet is another area of the bathroom that can become treacherous for those with disabilities,” says Kelly Mercer of North Carolina’s 101 Mobility, “Handrails eliminate users’ need to balance as they sit down and stand up from the toilet. Consider installing a simple safety frame around your toilet to increase the user’s comfort and quality of life.”

8. Ensure Sink and Vanity Edges Are Not Sharp

In a space where mobility can be compromised or balance can be precarious, such as the bathroom, it is crucial that all surfaces are as safe as possible. Sink and vanity edges, often overlooked, can pose a serious risk for seniors. Sharp edges can cause painful injuries if a senior stumbles or loses balance. To enhance bathroom safety, consider replacing sinks and vanities with sharp edges with models that have rounded edges. 

Additionally, edge guards can be installed on existing furniture to soften the edges and corners. By doing this, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidental bumps and bruises, making the bathroom a safer place for seniors.

9. Keep All Bathing Necessities Within Reach

18 essential tips for improving bathroom safety for seniors 1

Making sure that everything in the bathroom is accessible is a key way to avoid slips and falls. By eliminating the need for a senior to bend over and/or reach up to collect soap, shampoo, razors, and the like, he/she will have better control of balance. Put up some waterproof shelves in the shower area. Be sure that it is easy to access. Place all necessities neatly on the shelf. Now you have a shower that promotes the safety of all who use it!

“Older adults should be able to reach items they need and put them away again without having to stretch or bend,” contends the manager of marketing and digital experience at Intrepid USA, Rachel Albin, “Often, people keep shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other products along the edge of their bathtub or shower. Not only does this pose a fall risk for seniors as they enter and exit the shower or bathtub, bending down to reach these items can cause them to slip.”

10. Use a Non-Slip Bath Mat 

Non-slip bath mats

Both your bathroom floor and your bathtub surface are undoubtedly slick. Add the moisture that every bathroom regularly endures, and you have yourself a recipe for slips and falls. With non-slip mats on the floor, you take away those slippery elements. Place one in the bathtub as well. Doing so will significantly minimize the risk of your elderly loved one slipping and falling in the shower.

“You can use any one of a variety of solutions to create non-slip surfaces, including stickies designed for use over shower floors,” informs Scott Grant on GrayingWithGrace.com, “Other solutions you can consider include non-slip tiles and coatings.”

11. Consider a Shower Wheelchair

The safest way to take a shower is to do so sitting down. As American Home Shield reminds us, “in addition to providing stability for those with balance issues, a shower chair allows those who have difficulty standing for long periods to rest while bathing. Look for shower chairs whose legs are equipped with non-slip rubber tips.”

What are the most important features of a shower wheelchair - santa cruz ca

The concept of being seated while showering is one of the inspirations for Forward Day’s Shower Bay portable showers. Not to mention, our many years of experience have taught us that one of the best ways to help your family members avoid injury in the bathroom is to minimize its use. With Shower Bay, the bathroom is no longer necessary for the bathing process!

12. Install a Handheld Shower Head

Check shower water temperature

Using a handheld showerhead solves a number of issues. It limits the need for an elderly person to move around in the shower. This reduces the risk of falling. It also gives people more control over where water is concentrated. In addition, as pointed out by American Home Shield, a handheld showerhead gives older adults a greater sense of independence.

13. Use Warm Water

Maintaining a comfortable water temperature is a key ingredient to enjoying a safe shower. Not only are extreme temperatures damaging to the skin, but they can also be startling to older folks. The shock of being hit with water that is either too hot or too cold is enough to send a senior toppling over.

“Ideally, experts say that the ideal water temperature for bathing and showering should be only one or two degrees above the body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit,” Caregiver-Aid informs us, “So a temperature range of 98 degrees to 100 degrees is best. There are dangers for the elderly when bathing in extremely hot or extremely cold water.”

14. Keep an Emergency Remote in the Bathroom

An excellent safety feature, an emergency remote is designed to help people call for help in worst-case scenarios. In the event of a trip and fall, such a device can be used to contact loved ones, professional caregivers, or even emergency services. As Robin Schiltz of Senior Safety Advice highlights, a wearable emergency remote or one placed in the bathroom can be a priceless investment.

“Seniors that wear an emergency remote are more likely to get help when they need it most,” she writes, “With the press of a button, an ambulance is sent directly to the home as soon as possible. Additionally, Life Alert offers a shower HELP button.”

15. Utilize a Transfer Bench

Utilize transfer bench

While individuals who use wheelchairs may not have slipping and falling at the top of their lists of worries, the bathroom remains a dangerous place for them. Naturally, they still need to use the facilities, but most often, it is with the help of a caregiver. This is where transfer benches come into play. They help to make the transition from the wheelchair to the bathtub a lot easier.

However, some believe it’s safer not to have to climb over a bathtub’s edge. As a result, they install walk-in bathtubs which have doors that open and close. The problem, however, is they often take a long to both fills and drain and can have their users sitting in cold environments for lengthy periods of time.

16. Respect Your Elderly Loved One’s Privacy

Shower bay renew one's dignity and independence

In many cases, the trepidation that arises from an impending shower is due to embarrassment. For elderly people and individuals with disabilities, the need to have assistance during bath time causes great stress. Remember that to promote a safe and comfortable bathing experience, and it’s important to consider the actions taken before you even enter the bathroom. This often involves respecting a person’s privacy when he or she is disrobing.

“Give your loved one as much privacy as possible,” encourages the University of Michigan, “If he or she is safe alone for a while and is able to bathe without help, shut the door or close a curtain and step out of the bathroom. But stay close in case he or she asks for help.”

17. Be Considerate of Issues Exacerbated by Dementia

Be considerate of issues exacerbated by dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “more than 6 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s. An estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2021. Seventy-two percent are age 75 or older. One in nine people age 65 and older (11.3%) has Alzheimer’s dementia.”

The University of Michigan reminds us that if you’re caring for a dementia patient, it’s important to remember that he or she may not remember how to take a shower. “Sometimes it helps to bring the person into the shower fully dressed,” advises their website, “It can remind him or her of how to take a shower and the need to undress.”

18. Consider Shower Bay to Eliminate the Risks Involved With Bathroom Use

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Forward Day’s Shower Bay portable shower takes the bathroom out of the bathing equation. It can be snapped together in any room of the home where there is a faucet nearby. Wheelchair users can roll their shower wheelchairs in and out of Shower Bay independently. They are able to close the doors behind them for private and thorough showers with running water. No fear of slipping and falling needs to be involved!
If you have any questions about our Shower Bay portable showers, please don’t hesitate to contact us to ask them. Give us a call at (877) 960-0268 or email us at info@showerbay.com.

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