The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places in the home, especially if you’re partially disabled or you suffer with limited mobility.
Just in the US alone, around one in every three seniors over the age of 65 will suffer from at least one fall a year (source) and 79 percent of these falls are caused in the bathroom. 33 percent of these bathroom falls require a hospital admission.
It’s not surprising then with these statistics in mind, making sure a bathroom is safe and ensuring that the right aids are being used is vital especially when the person may lack mobility and they may be unsteady on their feet. The ability to carry out bathroom duties independently and being able to wash oneself is one of the key daily activities that someone can perform.
If a person finds showering or bathing challenging or they may worry about falling over in the bathroom, it shouldn’t mean that they have to forgo their independence, providing they have the right bathroom aids. In this article, we’ll explain how to make a bathroom a safer place and we’ll cover essential bathroom aids that can be used in order to reduce injuries and help regain someone’s confidence.
Improve Bathroom Accessibility
Creating a bathroom with accessibility in mind for seniors or for users who suffer with limited mobility is vital. If they require the use of a walker, rollator or wheelchair, check that the bathroom doorway is wide enough to accommodate one.
Check that there is a clear path from the bathroom doorway to the washbasin, toilet and bath/shower and remove any obstacles that could prove a trip hazard. Pay particular attention to mats as users who may use mobility aids such as a walking frame or wheelchairs could trip over these especially if they don’t have a non-slip backing.
Ensure essential things are within easy reach such as towels, toilet paper, and soap. Avoid the user from having to reach up or bend down for things. In the shower, use a caddy where common items such as shampoo, conditioner and soap can be stored which are at hand-reach.
Install a towel rail near to the washbasin and one near to the shower or bath so that they can access one easily when needed.
For users who may struggle with arthritic hands, consider using a motion activated soap dispenser.
Verify that the shower is positioned at the correct height for the user. If it’s positioned too high or too low they may struggle to reach the showerhead and it could result in a fall.
Install a Raised Toilet Seat
If you have problems sitting or standing or you suffer from balance issues, you may benefit from installing a raised toilet seat especially if you feel that your toilet is positioned too low to the ground.
A raised toilet seat raises the height of the toilet by 2″-6″ allowing a user to sit down more easily and allowing them to stand up afterwards without struggling. Some raised toilet seats come with arm supports which provides extra support which is ideal if you suffer with limited lower mobility and require something to hold onto when sitting or standing.
Fitting a toilet seat requires no complex installation, in order to install it you simply secure under the existing toilet seat.
In order to determine whether you may require a raised toilet seat or not, sit down on your toilet as you would normally do and observe whether your knees and hips are level. If your knees and hips are not at the same height, it means your toilet is too low and you may therefore benefit from a raised toilet seat which will allow for a more comfortable posture and aid with sitting and standing.
A raised toilet seat comes in three different sizes, 2″, 4″, and 6″. It is crucial to select the right height in order for it to be beneficial for the intended user. In order to determine the right height, simply follow these steps:
- Get the user to stand up and measure from the ground to the back of the user’s knee.
- Next, measure from the ground to the height of the existing toilet seat.
- Now subtract both measurements. The difference is the height of the toilet seat that is required for the user.
Most raised toilet seats can support weights up to 250 lbs. For larger individuals, bariatric models are available.
If the user is susceptible to pressure sores or they may simply require a softer toilet seat, padded raised toilet seats are available. These are normally constructed from durable foam and are covered by an easy washable vinyl.
If a user does not require a raised toilet seat but they do need extra support when sitting down or getting up from a toilet, a toilet surround could be a good alternative. A toilet surround can be positioned over a toilet and it provides the user with extra support when sitting or standing up.
They are adjustable so they are suitable for most heights and they can be removed easily when not in use.
Use a Shower/Bathtub Chair to Make Washing Comfortable and Safer
If a user suffers from balance issues while standing or they’re unable to stand for a prolonged period of time, a shower or bathtub chair could be a wise investment. These types of chairs allow someone to take a shower or bath while sitting down comfortably therefore making washing easier and safer.
There a wide range of shower and bathtub chairs available. The seats are usually perforated to allow for the water to drain while washing. Depending on your requirements, you can choose from folding seats, padded seats, wall mounted seats and triangular seats which take less space up in a shower cubicle.
In order to avoid the chair from slipping while in use, the chair’s feet normally contain suction cups which grip the shower/bath floor. Shower chairs are usually height adjustable so that they are suitable for most heights. Most chairs are constructed from aluminum or steel which are suitable for larger individuals.
If the user finds it particularly challenging getting in and out of a bath, a good alternative is a transfer bench. A bath transfer bench consists of a longer seat which extends over the outside of the bathtub. It allows someone to remain seated while they get into the bath. In order to get into the bath, the person sits on the far end of the bench, they then lift their legs over the bath rim in order to get into bath while they sit on the transfer bench. Some models come with a sliding seat which allows users to slide more easily into the bath.
Use a Bathtub Board
An alternative to a bath chair is a bath board. A bath board fits across the width of the bath and it attaches to the bath rim securely using suction pads. The bath board is designed to bear a user’s weight while they sit down and shower over the bath. This allows them to sit comfortably and safely and it has the added benefit of helping the user to get into and out of the bath.
Bath boards will either contain perforations or they will be slatted in order to help with easy drainage. As bath boards are not height adjustable, they are not suitable for anyone wanting to take a bath although they’re perfect for anyone wanting to shower.
While bath boards are designed to fit most bath sizes, always measure the width of your bath including the bath rim to ensure you get the right fit and check the weight capacity to make sure it’s suitable.
Use a Powered Bath Lift For Users With Limited Mobility
A bath lift can be a good choice if the user struggles to get into and out of a bath. With a reclining powered bath lift, it will gently lower a user into bath and raise them while remaining seated with a simple touch of a button.
They afford the user the luxury of having a bath without having to worry about failing over in the bath while they get in and get out of it.
A bath lift can be a cheaper alternative then installing a walk-in bathtub and one of the benefits is it doesn’t require any specialised knowledge to install one. Bath lifts are normally powered by a rechargeable battery power which can be charged when the bath lift is not in-use.
Use Bath Steps to Help Get In and Out of the Bathtub
If you struggle to get in and out of the bath maybe because you’re unable to properly bend your knees or the bath is too high for you, consider using a bath step.
Select a model that has a textured, non-slip surface and one that is height adjustable so it will be suitable for all users.
If you have balance issues, opt for one that has a handrail which will allow you to lean on it while you step in and out of the bath.
Use a Anti-Slip Safety Mat and Use Non-Slip Adhesive Strips
Slipping on slippery surfaces is the first cause of accidents in the bathroom. To improve safety and to avoid slipping in the bath or shower, ensure that you use a rubber safety mat. Choose one that has a ribbed surface and that has drainage holes as well as suction cups in order to prevent slipping.
You may want to apply non-slip adhesive strips to the floor of your bath or shower which will reduce how slippery it gets when wet. These are extremely easy to install and cost effective and they can be cut to accommodate any size.
In order to prevent your bathroom floor from getting wet, use a shower curtain with a weighted hem which will reduce the amount of water that splashes onto your bathroom floor.
Outside the bath/shower, use non-slip rugs and avoid any rugs that don’t have non-slip surface as these can prove dangerous and are a trip hazard.
Install Safety Grab Rails
Wall Grab Bar
Wall grab bars are mounted to a wall using screws and they can support a user’s full body weight.
Depending on the individual’s needs, you may want to install grab rails in key areas of the bathroom including in the bathtub, shower, next to the toilet and by the washbasin.
While the wall grab bar is the most common, there are also floor to ceiling pole grab bars which can provide extra support.
Suction Grab Bar
Suction grab bars as the name suggests, attach to a surface by the use of suction. Suction grab bars can be installed quickly, in order to install one you simply press both suction pads and place it onto a smooth non-porous surface such as a titled wall.
Suction grab bars are ideal if you want to install a grab bar in a rented property or you may want to use it while on vacation or when someone is visiting who may require extra support.
Bathtub Grab Bar
A bathtub grab bar attaches to the side of the bath using a clamp mechanism and it allows a user to manoeuvre themselves in and out of the bath. It’s extremely easy to fit and remove and it should fit most types of baths.
In order to prevent marking the bath, they will normally come with rubber padding and this also reduces it from moving when in operation.
Ensure the Bathroom Is Properly Illuminated
Proper illumination in the bathroom is essential, inadequate lighting can conceal potential trip hazards and therefore increase the risk of falls. Make sure bright lighting is used and ensure lighting around the toilet, washbasin and shower/bath is sufficient.
Pay particular importance to night-time lighting. The path leading from the user’s bedroom to the bathroom should be sufficiently illuminated so that they can navigate to it easily and safely. Install nightlights in the hallway and opt for motion-activated ones so that they only come on when they are needed. For users with limited hand dexterity, consider also using motion-activated lights in the bathroom.
Use a Hand-Held Shower
If the user suffers from limited mobility and requires a shower or bathtub chair consider installing a handheld showerhead.
Handheld showerheads are push button/level activated which means the individual can easily control the shower while they’re sat down allowing them to wash safely and comfortably. Handheld showerheads mean a user does need to stand or lean forward to use the shower so this can prevent falls.
When choosing a handheld showerhead consider how easy it is to operate. Is the push button big enough to use? This is especially important for users who suffer with arthritic hands. Consider also how heavy the showerhead is, too heavy and it could mean someone with limited mobility may find it difficult to lift and operate. The shower hose should also be long enough so that the shower can be operated while sitting down. Opt for a kink-free hose, as this reduces the risk of it tangling which otherwise could become a tripping hazard.
Use a Single-Lever or Motion-Activated Faucets
Users who suffer with arthritic hands or limited hand dexterity will usually find single lever faucets much easier to operate over ones that require twisting and turning.
If the user has poor hand movement and find that even single lever faucets are difficult to operate, think about installing a motion activated faucet which can be easily operated by the user waving their hand under it.