You might be surprised to know that of all the rooms in your house there’s one room that’s universally considered the most dangerous. If you thought it was the kitchen, think again; in fact, most injuries in the house occur from falls in the bathroom. These injuries are usually the result of wet and slippery surfaces. These surfaces create a range of hazards when getting into and out of bathtubs and showers. Inadequate bathroom design also causes alarm when the elderly are concerned. And for senior citizens with reduced mobility, this often results in serious and sometimes even fatal injuries. Bathroom safety equipment for seniors is vital to ensure a safe environment and reduce the risk of serious injuries like broken bones or fractures.
Did you know that, according to the National Institute on Aging, 80% of all senior citizen falls occur in the bathroom? It’s a fact of life. As we age, our sense of balance is reduced resulting in more frequent falls and tumbles. And with current medical advances, people in the US are now living longer than ever before. The average life expectancy has increased to almost 80 years. Based on current projections, the numbers show no sign of decline.
Shower and bathroom safety for the elderly is a necessity in every household. Not only does it help the aged, it reduces the possibility of injuries in younger people as well. Don’t be complacent when it comes to the bathroom. Several adjustments can be made to help transform the most dangerous room in the home into one of the safest.
Common Hazards in the Bathroom
Even though water and slippery surfaces seem to be the most common culprit for bathroom injuries, many other obstacles produce their fair share of injuries. With reduced movement, reduced vision, and slower reaction times, seniors are more likely to have trouble with bathroom settings and conditions. Some common hazards that could result in potential injuries include:
- Water on the bathroom floor
- Polished, slippery tiling
- Unsecured bathmats
- Room lighting that is too dim or low
Some of these problems can be fixed with simple adjustments to the bathroom: rearrange the shelving, add seating, or increase lighting levels. Some solutions, though, may require an overall rethink of the bathroom design and could include major renovations. Whether the changes are large or small, any improvement families can make will result in lowering the potential for injury of the elderly.
One of the first steps to take is to assess the individual requirements for elderly bathroom users. Do they have trouble with movement? Is eyesight a problem? Is lightheadedness common? What areas in the bathroom will they need easier access to? Once you have identified some of the potential problem areas you will have a clearer understanding of what you need to change to create a safer bathroom.
Install Grab Bars & Shower Safety Handles
Water and slippery surfaces will always be present in the bathroom. It wouldn’t be a bathroom without water! Even though the best practice is to remove all possible conditions that create slippery surfaces, it might not always be possible in showers and bathtubs. To help with balance, you can install grab bars and shower safety handles in almost all areas of the bathroom. Commonly used to help people get in and out of showers or bathtubs, grab bars are also helpful near the toilet to aid in sitting and standing. Sometimes simply moving around the bathroom can be made easier with a bar to hold on to. It reduces the need to rely on things like unstable towel bars and sink tops for balance.
Be aware that not all grab bars meet the exact specifications required to bear the weight of repeated usage. The length of the bar, the diameter, and the bar position are also factors you need to consider. If you are installing a grab bar, make sure it is ADA compliant to give you peace of mind.
Install a Walk-in Shower
Although not the cheapest solution, replacing an existing tub with a walk-in shower can truly accommodate seniors or those with disabilities. A walk-in shower also called an easy-access shower, is made specifically for ease of entry and exit. Since a bathtub’s edge can be pretty hard to navigate for someone with reduced mobility, walk-in showers are a perfect solution because they have a very narrow edge, and can even be edge-less, making it easy for wheelchairs to roll in and out of the shower.
Consider Flooring Alternatives
Floor tiling is the standard in most bathrooms but it’s seldomly installed with senior citizens in mind. A glossy tile can be extremely slippery when in contact with water, which is why most floor tiles have a matte finish. However, this might not be enough to reduce accidents. Textured, non-slip tiles are now available for bathroom and shower floors. Another idea is to add non-slip decals to bathtubs and showers. If you want to stay away from using tiles, there are also a number of bathroom floor alternatives to consider – non-slip vinyl, linoleum, or bamboo and cork flooring.