Most seniors prefer to age in place in the comfort of their own home. With a few modifications and safety updates, your loved one will be able to live independently for a longer period of time. The following bathroom safety tips will get you headed in the right direction to keep your loved one safe at home.
When you start to lose your balance, your first instinct is to grab whatever is nearest to you. If that happens to be a sliding shower door or a towel bar, however, the object that you grab onto may not be able to hold your weight.
Keep your loved one safe by installing grab bars in strategic places, such as on either side of the toilet and on the wall next to the bath tub or shower. When properly installed, a grab bar will support your full weight and stop you from falling.
Bath tubs and showers are often the cause of falls in the bathroom, since they are slippery when wet. Use a non-slip shower mat or apply non-skid tape or treads to the bottom of your bath tub or shower.
Sitting in the shower or bath tub is safer than standing. You can really take your time bathing and enjoy yourself with a bath or shower chair. Options range from a small bath stool (for tight shower spaces) to a bath transfer bench that make it easier to get in and out of the tub.
With a handheld shower head, you can easily rinse off without standing or moving around underneath the shower head. The long hose allows you to move the shower head where needed, and you can control the spray settings for your comfort.
A higher toilet seat makes it easier to sit down and stand up. A raised toilet seat platform can be installed over your existing toilet seat for an extra boost. You may also be able to install a portable commode (without the bucket) over the toilet seat for arm rest support.
If you haven’t done so already, get a medical alert system for your loved one. Make sure the alert button is waterproof so that they can wear it in the bathroom. Encourage your loved one to press the button if they fall or get hurt, even if the damage is minor. Better to be safe than sorry.
The water heater temperature should never exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water gets too hot, it can scald the skin. Elderly people have sensitive skin but are not always able to detect changes in temperature. Lowering the water heater temperature also prevents elderly people with arthritic hands or poor grip strength from accidentally turning the water on too hot.
Some bath and sink faucets are difficult for seniors with arthritic hands to use. Replace the faucet with handles that are easy to grip and use. Lever handle faucets are easier to use than handles that require pulling or twisting. Make sure the faucet also indicates directions for hot and cold water temperature.
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When it comes to keeping your loved one safe, the bathroom is one of the first places to start. Bathroom safety products can make your loved one feel more secure and stay more independent by preventing falls.
Getting in and out of the bathtub is difficult for seniors who suffer from weakness or injury in the lower body and hips. Stepping over the tub wall can throw your body off balance, and your feet can easily slip on the tub floor or on the slippery tile outside the tub.
A bath transfer bench makes it easier and safer to get in and out of the tub. Instead of stepping over the side of the tub, you can sit down on the bench, lift one leg at a time into the tub, and then slide over to the center of the bench.
A transfer bench not only keeps you safe getting into the tub, but it also keeps you safe while taking a bath. Even though sitting on the tub floor might not be a possibility anymore (since getting up from the tub is difficult or impossible for seniors with weakness or injuries), you can still sit down while bathing or showering. Sitting on a bath transfer bench is safer and more comfortable than standing. With drainage holes, non-slip texturing, or a towel draped over the seat, the chances of slipping are greatly reduced. A hand held shower head makes it easy to rinse off and control the flow of water.
For safety, make sure the bath transfer bench is sitting solidly on all four legs. The bench should not rock or tilt to one side.
When it comes time to update your loved one’s home for aging in place, the bathroom is one of the first places to begin. Because of the risk of slipping on wet surfaces climbing in and out of the bathtub, as well as other hazards, the bathroom is a high risk area for falls. With a few improvements, however, you can reduce the risk of falling and increase the safety of the bathroom.
Grab bars are the first step in making the bathroom a safer place. Whether it’s getting in and out of the shower, getting up from the toilet, or bending over to turn on the tub faucet, grab bars provide a solid place to hold for balance and assistance.
When you start to fall, your first instinct is to grab onto something solid. If all you have to grab is the shower door or a towel bar, the results could be disastrous. Shower doors and towel bars are not designed to hold your weight. Grab bars, on the other hand, are specially designed to keep you from falling. Properly installed, a grab bar will not break away from the wall where it is mounted.
To make it easier to sit down on the toilet and get back up again, a raised toilet seat or an over-the-toilet commode with grab bars can help. A raised toilet seat means your loved one doesn’t have to bend over as far to sit on the toilet, and it doesn’t take as much leg strength to stand up again. Grab bars around the toilet also assist the user in getting up and down and keeping their balance.
For bathtub safety, a bath bench or transfer bench allows the user to sit while washing up. A bath or shower bench provides comfortable seating with either a plastic molded chair or a padded seat and optional backrest. A transfer bench extends outside the tub, allowing the user to sit down and lift one leg at a time over the tub wall, then slide over to the middle of the bench. Make sure you install a hand held shower head as well, for rinsing hard-to-reach spots.
Again, grab bars are important around the shower/tub area as well as around the toilet. They not only prevent falls by helping your loved one maintain balance, but they can also stop a fall after your loved one loses their balance.
Using a transfer bench can reduce the risk of falls in the bathroom. Since fear of falling is one of the major causes of anxiety for the elderly, a transfer bench can make bathing a much more pleasant and safe experience both for the caregiver and the elderly person.
To reduce slipping, choose a textured plastic seat. The drainage holes prevent water from puddling on the seat.
For more comfort, choose a vinyl padded seat or drape a towel over the molded plastic seat. Placing a towel on top of the vinyl padding reduces slipperiness that can occur because of the wet vinyl.
A back rest can increase comfort and improve sitting posture. Drape a towel over the back rest to make it more comfortable.
To make it easier to clean personal areas without standing up, you may want to consider a transfer bench with a cutout. Using a bath bench with a cutout requires good sitting posture to avoid slipping into the cutout.
To avoid getting the bathroom floor wet, cut two slits in the shower curtain and insert this section of the curtain through the slit in the transfer bench. If your shower has doors, you will need to remove the doors and replace them with a shower curtain.
Glass shower doors are a potential safety hazard, since the person in the shower may automatically grab onto the door handle to keep from falling. The shower doors are not designed to hold weight, and if they come out of the tracks, they could cause serious injury.
Adjust the transfer bench legs so that the feet sit firmly on the tub floor and the seat is level. The legs on the outside of the tub will be longer than the legs inside the tub, since the bottom of the tub is higher than the bathroom floor. The seat should be adjusted to a comfortable transfer height for the user.
Helping a loved one slide over on a transfer bench requires considerable caregiver strength. If your loved one needs help scooting over, we recommend a sliding or swiveling transfer bench. Keep in mind that sliding a transfer bench over with a person sitting on it still requires considerable strength. Use proper transfer techniques to avoid injury, and ask your loved one to help with the transfer as much as possible.
To prevent slipping, choose a transfer bench with drainage holes and a textured seat. To reduce slipperiness even more, place a folded towel on the seat. A colored towel provides a visual contrast between the tub and the transfer bench, which is helpful for individuals with poor vision or trouble with depth perception.
Most transfer benches include a built-in slot for the shower curtain. Simply cut two slits in the shower curtain where it falls above the slot, and slip the shower curtain cutout through the slot. If your shower has sliding doors, you will need to replace the doors with a shower curtain in order to use your transfer bench and keep the floor dry.
Your transfer bench comes with adjustable height legs. Press the release button on the leg, slide the leg up or down to the desired height, and make sure the release button pops all the way through the adjustment hole. Adjust the two legs outside the tub to the same length. Adjust the two legs inside the tub to the same length as well. All four legs should be adjusted so that the transfer bench is level.
Wash the transfer bench with mild soapy water. Wipe the bench dry after every use.
Since every bath bench is made differently, make sure you get one that will properly fit your bathtub. An ill-fitting bath bench is unsafe. The width of the tub, the type of side walls (rounded or flat), and the size and layout of the bathroom all need to be considered when purchasing a bath bench.
If the bench is a transfer bench, place two legs of the transfer bench inside the tub wall and as close to the far wall of the tub as possible. The handle should be on the same side as the wall. Allow the other two legs to rest on the bathroom floor outside the tub. Most transfer bench backrests are reversible. Attach the backrest on the side that allows the user to face the direction that he or she prefers.
If the bench is a bath seat (seat only or with backrest), place the bath seat inside the tub. All four legs should be flat on the bottom of the tub floor. Do not allow the legs to rest on the curved sides of the tub.
Adjust the length of the legs so that the bench is level.
Adjust the height of the bath seat as needed by pushing in the snap button and sliding the leg tube up or down until the button protrudes through the correct adjustment hole. Repeat for the remaining three legs. Make sure all four legs are adjusted to the same height by counting the number of holes between the bottom of each leg and the push button. Ensure that the legs are locked in place before use.
When it comes to choosing a bath seat, there are a few things you need to think about in order to make sure the bath seat fits your tub and is comfortable and safe for the user. Here are a few questions to ask for purchasing a bath seat.
The bath seat must be installed properly in order to be used safely. Do not use a bath seat if it does not fit properly (i.e. the legs rest on the tub wall instead of the tub floor, etc.). Before making your purchase, measure the width of the bath tub and the height of the tub wall. Also, make sure the bath seat is designed to work with the tub rim, whether flat or curved. Some seats require a flat rim to attach to the tub wall.
If your tub or shower has sliding doors, we recommend removing the doors and replacing them with a shower curtain for use with a transfer bench or a bench that is designed to rest on the tub wall. When the bath seat is installed, you will not be able to fully close the sliding doors and the floor will get wet. Also, the doors can be dangerous if the towel bar is used as a grab bar.
With a shower curtain, you can tuck the curtain into the slot on the bath seat to prevent water from pooling on the floor. For the best fit, cut slits in the shower curtain and tuck it through the slot.
If the user has a difficult time stepping over the tub rim, use a bath transfer bench. A transfer bench allows the user to sit on the outside edge of the bench, lift each leg over the tub rim, and slide over into the middle of the tub.
For users with more limited mobility, look for a bath bench with a sliding seat. Keep in mind that even with a sliding seat, it would take a considerable amount of strength for a caregiver to move the seat with a person seated on it. The person seated should help move the seat as much as possible.
Users with difficulty standing may benefit from a bath seat with a cutout to make cleaning personal areas easier. A cutout is not recommended if the user has difficulty sitting upright and could slide into the cutout.
Check the weight capacity for the bath seat before your purchase to make sure it will safely hold the person who will be using the bath seat. A bariatric or heavy duty bath seat may be required for heavier users.
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.
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.
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.