Being able to live at home is important to aging seniors, yet as they get older, everyday tasks often become more difficult, falls become more dangerous, and caregivers may worry about leaving their loved ones alone. Fortunately, there are ways that living at home can be made safer for seniors, giving both caregivers and seniors greater peace of mind.
Since the bathroom is one of the most common places to fall, we’ll cover a few ways you as a caregiver can make the bathroom a safer place while allowing your loved one to maintain as much independence as possible.
A bath seat allows the user to remain seated while cleaning up, thereby reducing the risk of falls in the tub and shower. Bath seats are available in a variety of styles and sizes, including bariatric seats for users over 250 pounds, teak wood for elegant styling, and portable folding styles for travel. Available features include backrests, handles, suction cups, and padding.
A bath transfer bench makes it easier for the user to get in and out of a bathtub. Instead of stepping over the tub rim, your loved one can sit down on the edge of the bench, lift each leg into the tub, and slide over to the middle of the seat. Handles, backrests, drainage holes, and other features increase safety and comfort.
A handheld shower allows the user to wash and control the flow of water while remaining seated.
An elevated toilet seat makes it easier to sit down and get up from the toilet. Support arms provide an extra boost for standing up, and they reduce the risk of losing your balance.
Installing grab bars around the toilet and tub or shower is an easy way to provide extra support and prevent falls. Encourage your loved one NEVER to use a towel bar, door handle, shower door, wall-mounted sink, or other object to support their weight. These objects can break free and throw their weight off balance. Only securely mounted grab bars are designed to support body weight.
Slip-resistant mats and non-slip adhesive strips provide confident footing on slippery surfaces, such as tub and shower floors and bathroom tile floors. These surfaces become very slippery when wet, leading to a higher risk of falls.
Loose rugs are tripping hazards. Remove throw rugs from the bathroom, or secure them to the floor with heavy duty carpet tape.
Trips to the bathroom at night can be hazardous. Seniors are more likely to trip over objects or lose their balance in dark or dim rooms. Plug in automatic night lights in the bathroom, hallways, stairways, and other areas around the house as needed. These lights will come on automatically at dusk and turn off at dawn.
If your loved one struggles to make it to the bathroom, you may want to consider getting a commode chair. A self-contained commode can be placed in the bedroom next to the bed to provide easy access to a toilet. Most commode chairs can also be installed over a toilet seat to act as an elevated toilet seat with support arms.
If assistance is needed, the caregiver should stand behind the individual using the walker and on the same side as the injured or weak leg.
To walk with a walker using a three point gait, follow these steps:
When used correctly, a bath transfer bench can make it safer and easier to get in and out of a bathtub. The instructions below will help you properly set up and use your bath transfer bench. Please note that these instructions are guidelines only. Use only as directed by your healthcare provider.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to assemble your bath transfer bench. After the bench is properly assembled, you are ready to install the bench in the bathtub.
One of the benefits of a rollator is that it can be folded for transport and storage. When the rollator is folded, it can easily fit in a small closet or in the trunk or back seat of a car. The compact size of the rollator makes it easy to carry, lift, and store.
When you first take your rollator out of the box, it will be folded, which makes it more compact for shipping and transport. To open the rollator, follow the steps below.
Make sure you adjust the height of the rollator handles to a comfortable and ergonomic position before use. Adjusting the rollator to fit the user is important to reduce the risk of falls and to ensure the safety and comfort of the user.
When it’s time to transport or store the rollator, simply fold it up for a compact size. Follow the steps below to fold the rollator.
Be sure to use proper lifting techniques to carry the rollator and lift it into a trunk or car.
A wheelchair access ramp must have a gradual enough slope to allow wheelchair users to easily push themselves to the top. The longer the ramp, the smaller the ramp incline will be and the safer it will be to use the ramp. If the ramp is too steep, it can create a dangerous situation.
The following steps will help you determine the correct wheelchair ramp length for your application.
To find a PVI ramp that meets your needs, see our PVI Ramp Model Selection Guide (pdf).
Check the local and state regulations for ramp inclines before building or purchasing a wheelchair ramp. Make sure the ramp incline does not exceed the maximum slope required for your application.
To meet ADA requirements, the incline must not exceed a 1:12 slope (12 inches of ramp length for every 1 inch in rise).
For ramps that do not need to meet ADA requirements, Prairie View Industries recommends no greater than a 2:12 slope (9.5 degrees) for most applications. To find a 2:12 slope, find the rise in inches and divide by 2. The resulting number is the length of the ramp that is required in feet.
Example: If the rise is 12 inches high, the ramp length needs to be 6 feet for a 2:12 slope.
See the Ramp Incline Chart below to find the correct wheelchair ramp length based on ramp rise and desired ramp incline.
Transferring from a wheelchair to a walker or vice versa should be done carefully in order to prevent falls and ensure the safety of the individual involved in the transfer. These instructions are meant for active transfers, where the individual needs little to no assistance.
Since each individual is unique, varying levels of assistance or adaptation may be required, depending on physical limitations. The individual and caregiver should be aware of the individual’s limitations and be willing to adapt the method of transfer as needed. Consult a physical therapist or healthcare professional for individualized advice on transfer methods.
(Note: NEVER grab hold of the walker to help you stand up from the wheelchair. The walker can easily tip over backwards. Only transfer your hands to the walker after you are in a standing position and well balanced.)
Please consult a health care professional or physical therapist for any questions or concerns about the suitability of any mobility aid prior to use.
Along with other bathroom safety products, a bath seat is designed to reduce the risk of falling and increase the independence and confidence of the user. A bath seat provides a comfortable place to rest and saves the energy required to get up from the tub floor or stand under the shower.
In order to provide stable seating, all four legs of the bath bench must be able to sit on the flat bottom of the tub. If the legs are resting on the angled sides of the tub, the bench may rock or tip over.
Measure the width of the flat part on the bottom of the tub to find out how wide the bath seat can be when the legs are resting on the tub floor. For narrow tubs, your choices will be more limited. The width of the bath legs needs to be narrow enough to fit the tub, and the width of the bath seat needs to be wide enough for the user to sit comfortably.
A bath bench without a back is designed for users who have a good sense of balance and strong back muscles. The user should be able to sit upright without assistance.
A bench that curves up on the sides will generally be more comfortable than a stool or flat bench. A curved surface and drainage holes in the seat will allow water to run off more easily and prevents the seat from becoming too slippery.
Side hand grips give the user a place to hold on to when standing up from or sitting down on the bath bench. Most benches are adjustable in height so that you can change the seat height if needed. For extra stability, look for a bath bench with suction cup tips.
For individuals with limited back strength, loss of balance, or who simply want the comfort of a backrest, the bath bench with back is a good choice. These bath chairs are available with the same features as a bench with no back, but with the added support of a backrest.
Bath chairs are available in plastic or padded vinyl. A plastic textured surface with drainage holes is preferred over vinyl in order to reduce the risk of slipping.
For individuals who have a difficult time getting in and out of the tub, a bath transfer bench allows them to sit on the bench and then slide over the tub wall.
The transfer bench extends outside the tub and includes a side arm rail for the user to grab on to and slide across the bench into the tub. Since only two legs of the transfer bench sit inside the tub, this type of bath seat works well for narrow tubs that cannot easily fit all four legs of a bath bench.