The CDC found that 1.6 million seniors end up in the emergency room every year from injuries received during a fall. The National Institute on Aging reports that 80% of those falls happen in the bathroom. Decreasing eyesight, loss of balance, and slowing reflexes are just a few of the reasons seniors have difficulty navigating the bathroom independently.
When getting into and out of the shower or tub, sitting down and getting up from the toilet become difficult, it’s time to make some changes. If you notice that towel bars and countertops are used to help support balance, it’s time to reconsider the functionality of the bathroom.
Here are a few ideas to reduce hazards and make the bathroom easier to use for the senior in your life.
When a senior needs additional support staying balanced or has dizziness episodes, modify your bathroom to provide that support.
- Make sure towel bars are securely fastened to the wall
- Install grab bars in areas where there is little else to hold on to
- Ensure items seniors might hold on to are slip resistant
If possible, observe how your loved one uses different areas of the bathroom. Watch for where they reach for support—that’s where it’s natural to place grab bars. If you place support in the areas they need it, they will be more likely to use it.
The shower is the worst place to lose balance. It is wet and slippery, and there is little to hold on to.
- Place a sturdy, waterproof shower chair in the shower that won’t slide around
- Build in a bench when you re-tile your shower with slip-resistant tiles
- Eliminate thresholds on the floor between the shower and the rest of the room so the senior doesn’t have to step over the ledge
- Include wide tub surrounds that allow the senior to sit down in order to get out of the tub and onto the floor safely
In a moist environment, slipping is always a concern. Take precautions to decrease slippery surfaces to keep the bathroom safe.
- Use non-slip mats or decals in the shower and tub to decrease slipping
- Place rubber-backed mats outside the tub, in front of the toilet, and at the vanity to decrease wetness
- Don’t forget to place non-slip strips at areas where seniors place hands—slipping happens on counters and walls, as well as floors
- Install textured tile on the floor, this increases grip—ensure that any tile used in the bathroom is rated for bathroom use
Reaching, Standing, Bending, Sitting Problems
The bathroom, and everything that goes on there, can be physically demanding to a senior.
Provide help to make the physical demands of daily hygiene simpler.
- Use raised toilet seats or install a new hanging toilet that can be placed at any height
- Install grab bars around the toilet and shower areas
- Remodel the bathroom to be very near to where the senior spends his or her time
- Put in storage where it’s needed. A linen closet down the hall is hardly helpful
- Make sure basics like shampoo in the shower and extra toilet paper right next to the commode are within easy reach
Other Safety Measures
In addition to an environment designed for comfort and ease, a few extra precautions can give you peace of mind.
- Regular cleaning may help prevent a hazardous environment
- Keep clutter out. The easier it is to move around the bathroom, the safer it will be
- Make sure there is plenty of light in the bathroom and on the path to the bathroom
- Install a telephone in the bathroom or get one of those life-saving alert systems so your loved one can call for help