Consumer Affairs reports that up to 80 percent of falls in the home occur inside a bathroom. Even more startling is that one in three people over age 65 fall every year. Hospital emergency rooms are inundated annually with 200,000 Americans who are injured at home due to bathroom-related mishaps.
The bathroom can be a slippery, steamy and outright dangerous place, especially for seniors who struggle with mobility issues, balance problems and weakness. Wet surfaces lead to slips. Without trusty grab bars, the typical bathroom can be a nightmare for the elderly to navigate safely.
When seniors choose to age in the comfort of home, the bathroom is the first room family members should revamp. Implementing safety measures in the bathroom is crucial to protecting frail seniors from preventable injuries—from bruises and minor scrapes to broken bones and even head contusions. A home caregiver can also help make the bathroom experience safer by providing assistance with restroom use.
How do bathroom injuries occur?
Many injuries in the bathroom result from four specific activities: 1) exiting or entering the tub or shower, 2) sitting down upon or rising up from the toilet seat, 3) walking on the bathroom floor and 4) improperly holding onto the sink or towel racks for support with balance.
It is easy to see how an insecurely installed towel rack can lead to severe injury when seniors grab onto them in attempts to promote steadiness. Equally hazardous are instances when seniors climb over bathtub ledges. Floor tiles that become slippery with moisture are a major hazard for the elderly.
Renovating the bathroom or simply installing safety features go a long way in preventing injury to seniors. As a room that receives usage daily, the bathroom should receive prompt attention. The bathroom can be revamped economically or extravagantly yet provide safety for years to come.
What safety features promote balance?
It is natural for seniors to grab onto any object, like towel bars, that jut out of the walls in efforts to maintain balance. Towel bars are not designed to withstand weight. Grab bars are the answer. Install these bars near the shower and in close proximity to the toilet.
Grab bars with a gloss finish fail to be slip-resistant. Choose grab bars that feature a grip surface, have colors that contrast with bathroom walls (so seniors see them) and that may be securely installed. Grab bars that utilize suction cups are unreliable when it comes to supporting body weight.
An alternative to grab bars is the floor-to-ceiling pole. These fixtures are impermanent, unlike bolted grab bars. Whether a family chooses grab bars or poles, both offer seniors with poor balance the ability to remain steady and safe while using any part of the bathroom.
What are tub safety solutions?
A transfer bench offers seniors a practical solution when they have difficulty remaining standing in the tub. Rubber tips at the bottom of the legs prevent the bench or chair from sliding. Model variations, such as a sliding bench or simple stool, exist to accommodate the preferences of older individuals.
Install a walk-in tub for maximum safety. Rather than climbing over the slippery tub ledge, the senior opens the tub door to enter and exit. The high cost of installing a walk-in tub is shouldered by the homeowner; Medicare might offer financial assistance if the tub is a medical necessity.
A grab bar positioned directly on the tub ledge is an alternate support solution for seniors who require an object to hold onto when exiting and entering. The safety grab bar locks along the tub ledge. Installation is easy, and the bar’s rubber lining prevents damage to the tub.
Essential to safety while inside the shower are non-slip mats. Alternately, adhesive strips may be applied to the shower floor to stabilize footing. Just as important to preventing slips are non-slip rugs placed on the floor outside of the tub, around the sink and in front of the toilet.
What features permit ease with toilet use?
Due to a lack of leg strength and balance, seniors are likely to experience difficulty accessing the toilet seat safely. A raised toilet set is a practical solution. Three to four inches of increased height eases seniors’ abilities to seat themselves on the toilet and to rise securely from it.
Grab bars also offer support to seniors who need assistance when accessing the toilet. The grab bars may be attached to the toilet, or they may be bolted to the wall. Alternately, position an adjustable toilet safety frame with support arms to promote balance during toilet use.
What are extra protective measures?
Miscellaneous safety precautions should be taken, such as installing a waterproof medical alert system in the bathroom. Plug in nightlights along the corridor to the bathroom to prevent falls. Modify the bathroom door so it swings outward in case the senior falls against the door and needs emergency help.
While revamping the bathroom has its merits, seniors may still require additional assistance when using it. Professional caregivers, like those from Assisting Hands Home Care, are trained to lend discreet help in the bathroom. Our caregivers assist seniors with daily grooming, bathing, toileting and dressing tasks.
In addition to assistance with the activities of daily living, our dedicated professionals help with light housework. A clean bathroom prevents the slips and falls that result from accumulated grime. We’ll declutter the bathroom of excess toiletries to reduce the risk of tripping. Fall prevention services are included to promote safe navigation of the overall home environment.
Caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care provide comprehensive non-medical senior care. Whether your loved one’s requirements are 24 hour home care, live-in care or respite care, Assisting Hands Home Care will develop a custom care plan designed to meet the care recipient’s every need.
Families and their elderly loved ones turn to Assisting Hands Home Care, for our compassionate and reliable home care services. With licensed, bonded and dedicated caregivers, Assisting Hands Home Care is an elder care resource families trust.
Do you have questions about senior safety? Meet Richard!
Richard E. Ueberfluss is a Senior Home Safety Specialist™ and the owner of Assisting Hands Home Care in Naperville, IL. If you have a senior loved in DuPage County, IL area who needs in-home care and senior home safety services, call Richard at (630) 352-3656.