Bathroom Safety for the Elderly

It is not uncommon for the elderly to fall, in fact a third of over 65s will have a fall at some point every year. Often these falls will lead to little more than a minor injury. Falls in the bathroom however are not only the most common, they are also the most dangerous, with a far greater chance of serious injury being sustained. The combination of slippery and hard, harsh surfaces make the bathroom a particularly unforgiving environment for falls and slips. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the multitude of hazards often lying hidden in the bathroom. Lack of muscle strength, awareness and balance all contribute to the difficulty that many elderly people face in performing the basic tasks in the bathroom that many take for granted. To help you prepare your bathroom for a vulnerable elderly person, our team at Midlands Bathroom Distributors has prepared a list of adjustments and precautions to make this room as safe as possible.

Common Bathroom Hazards for the elderly :

  • Getting in and out of the bath tub or shower
  • Sitting down and getting up from the toilet, especially if the toilet height is low
  • Walking across slippery floor tiles

Safety Tips :

To minimize the dangers present in the bathroom it is often necessary to install appropriate safety features to ease movement and reduce the risk of falling:

Slip Mats
Many senior persons require assistance when walking across any floor, so it is essential to make navigating the harsh and slippery tiles found in the bathroom as easy as possible. Placing a non-slip mat on the floor of the shower or bathroom as well as across the bathroom floor will provide an elder with a surer footing and improved stability.

Grab Bars for getting in and out the shower
Getting in and out of the shower or bath can be one of the most challenging and dangerous parts of an elderly person’s day. Not only do they frequently lack the strength to control their motions but the movement of weight as they do get in or out makes loss of balance particularly likely. By installing a grab bar at an easy-to-reach location, ideally where the elder would normally try to hold onto when entering or exiting the shower, can make the movement considerably easier and safer. Do be aware that existing towel bars are often used but are not a suitable alternative to grab bars as they are not built to support weight and they are rarely positioned in ideal, easy-to-reach places.

A shower chair    
Elderly people who are particularly weak or have limited upper body strength may find that a grab bar is simply not enough to provide stability throughout their time in the shower. In such cases, a shower chair is a highly recommended option as it provides full support for the elder and eliminates the requirement for them to maintain their balance while showering. Good shower chairs should crucially have rubber tips on the legs to prevent sliding and ensure maximum safety. A shower chair should also be seriously considered for any elderly person even if they do have enough upper body strength to make a grab rail of assistance because the chair can also provide an important resting place which can be used as a go-to option if they have any difficulty standing for long periods of time or lose confidence in their balance while showering.

Adjusted Toilets
Senior persons who struggle with the leg strength and balance required to lower themselves onto a toilet and then rise to a standing position safely will benefit greatly from a raised toilet seat. Typically a raised seat will be raised 3-4 inches thereby reducing the amount of distance required to reach the seat from standing. Installing a grab bar to either the toilet itself or the wall beside it can be used as a more convenient alternative to a raised toilet seat or used in addition to provide maximum safety and stability.

All toiletries should be placed within easy reach
One of the easiest and least expensive methods of making the bathroom a safer place for the elderly is simply ensuring that all toiletries are placed on appropriately located shelves that avoid the need for bending down or any reaching motion that may place strain on the elder’s strength or balance.

Final Thoughts :

The ability to wash oneself is essential for enabling an elderly person to retain independence and confidence. The installation of such simple bathroom adjustments can provide an elder with the stability they need to safely navigate the bathroom. These adjustments are sometimes provided free by local authorities so if you are concerned about their affordability do consider contacting the local social services department.

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