As children the safety of elderly parents is a top priority. Children would always want their seniors to be comfortable and most importantly safe in their own homes.
Parents don’t want to be assisted and loved to maintain a certain level of independence and have the peace of living in one’s own home.
If elderly parents want to stay in their home, there are ways to help them stay safe. The most important way you can help out is by visiting regularly. If you find the house dirty it may be time visit more or hire help, whether it’s a cleaning service or even in-home senior care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-in-four elderly people fall each year.
That’s why it’s so important to provide safe spaces for seniors — and the bathroom is the perfect place to start.
Tips for Setting Up a Bathroom for Your Senior
Here are a few tips that are great for any home where a senior is living, but they’re especially helpful for a senior who is living alone.
First tip is to declutter & organize
Lotion, shampoo and conditioner, shower gel, toothpaste — while each of these things is considered necessary items, having too many can increase the risk of falls in the bathroom.
If showers and bathroom counters are always full of products, there’s a strong likelihood of something getting knocked to the floor — and when this happens, the individual has to bend over to pick it up.
But seniors frequently struggle with achy, stiff muscles and joints. Couple that with a decreased level of mobility that can make bending over difficult, and you have the perfect recipe for a fall.
Decluttering and organizing the products throughout the bathroom, and keeping out only those items used daily, will be a helpful step in bathroom safety for elderly individuals.
Second tip is to update lighting
One of the first steps to take to provide bathroom safety for elderly individuals is to install proper lighting.
Poor lighting in the bathroom increases the risk of falls.
Lighting should be bright enough for the person to see what they are doing, but not so bright that it dazzles their eyes — which could result in making them dizzy and throwing them off balance.
Night lights are also a wonderful option, both in the bathroom and on the path between the bathroom and bedroom.
Third tip is to add grab bars and safety rails
Safety rails and grab bars are must-haves when it comes to bathroom safety for elderly individuals.
Grab bars and safety rails are available for the toilet, bathtub, and shower.
Toilet grab bars are placed on either side of the toilet to provide assistance and support for getting on and off the toilet.
Shower safety rails and grab bars help seniors maintain their balance as they step in and out of the tub or shower.
Grab bars and safety rails should be installed, so they are easy to reach, and at a height that allows the individual to grab hold without having to reach too far up or down.
Fourth tip is to install a walk-In shower & hand-held shower head
Having senior-friendly shower equipment is necessary in promoting shower safety for elderly individuals.
A bathtub can be difficult for anyone to navigate.
For older adults, stepping in and out of a bathtub is especially hazardous.
If possible, consider replacing an existing bathtub with a walk-in shower. Easy access showers are a perfect solution for people with limited mobility, and can even be edgeless to make it less challenging for a walker or wheelchair to roll in and out. Some models even come with a built-in corner chair.
Installing a flexible, handheld shower wand is also helpful, and some are specially made with settings and features that are easy for older users to navigate.
Fifth tip is to add a shower chair or transfer bench
Many senior adults have difficulty standing and balancing, especially on wet surfaces.
A simple solution is to use a shower chair or transfer bench in the tub or shower.
These waterproof, plastic chairs have a metal frame, come in a variety of sizes, and may be taken in and out of the tub or shower as needed. For extra safety, a non-slip mat can be added to the floor.
Sixth tip is to keep items within easy reach
A quick and easy way to improve bathroom safety for elderly people is to make sure that everything is handy and easily accessible.
Everything should be between waist and shoulder height if possible, so that no bending or overhead reaching is necessary.
Shower caddies are a helpful organizational tool for:
Bottled soap, shampoo; and conditioner
Bath towels can be stored on a short, over-the-toilet shelf, while plastic storage drawers can be placed on the counter as a solution to under-the-counter storage.
Some shower chairs also have safety features, such as seat belts, armrests, or a footrest.
Seventh tip is to use non-slip mats
Bathroom rugs, bath mats, and toilet mats may help the bathroom feel warm and cozy when you get out of the shower — but they are a huge hazard for seniors.
Remove any mats that do not have a non-slip backing. Replace them with rubberized, non-slip floor mats that won’t slide when they’re stepped on.
All mats used in the bathroom should be as thin as possible, so they don’t interfere with senior’s ability to use a walker in the bathroom.
Eight tip is to raise the toilet
Getting on and off of the toilet can be tricky and scary for older adults.
One solution to this problem is to install a raised toilet seat. These seats are easy to install and cheaper than replacing a complete toilet.
Another option is to install an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved raised-height toilet.
ADA-approved toilets feature:
A raised toilet seat
Tool-free removable arms
Added height: about 17-18 inches higher than a standard toilet
Wider toilet seat
Ninth tip is to test the water temperature
Another factor that is often overlooked when determining how to make a bathroom safe for seniors is making sure the temperature of the water coming out of their faucets is set to a safe temperature.
If the water is too hot, it can cause an excessive flow of blood to the skin, which can lead to a strain on the cardiovascular system — a highly dangerous situation for older adults who suffer from heart conditions.
On the other hand, if the water is too cold, it can reduce blood flow to the skin, internal organs, and heart. This, too, could lead to heart strain.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), most injuries and deaths involving tap water burns occur among the elderly and children under age five.
One way to minimize the danger of hot water injury is by lowering the hot water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The ideal temperature for hot water coming from the faucet is 97 to 98 degrees.
An anti-scald pressure-balancing valve can also be installed to provide an added layer of protection. This special device is built into the shower handle and regulates the water pressure from the hot and cold water lines to prevent sudden, extreme temperature changes.
Tenth tip is to make sure help is “a button away”
A medical alert necklace is a wearable device that enables seniors to call for emergency help by simply pressing a button.
Not only does a help button make it easy to call for assistance, but it also provides an added measure of peace of mind for senior citizens.
Medical alert necklaces can be purchased as part of either in-home or on-the-go (mobile) medical alert systems. Home systems include a base station that plugs into the wall or uses cellular service to connect to a centralized emergency monitoring location.
When the button on the necklace is pushed, a signal is sent to the response center. Operators are available to assist 24/7 and help the individual decide if they need the help of a loved one — or if emergency services should be contacted.
Some medical alert necklaces are voice-activated and come with an automatic fall detector that can call for help even if the individual is unable to push the button.