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How To Make A Bathroom Safe For Older Adults

bathroom design
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For those with injuries and limited mobility, the bathroom can be frightening. Over 80% of falls happen, with older adults being the most common victims.

These falls can also be hazardous, especially if sharp objects (square countertops) are in the bathroom.

Falls among adults 65 and older caused over 36,000 deaths in 2020, making it the leading cause of injury death for that group.

CDC

Although there are guidelines for baby-proofing a house, there are none for older adults’ safety in the bathroom.

Following these tips makes the bathroom safer and more accessible for senior family members to use. 

Understanding the Needs of Older Adults

A detailed understanding of an elderly person’s needs is necessary to make their bathroom safe.

This entails acknowledging the cognitive, sensory, and physical changes that come with aging and designing the bathroom to address these issues successfully.

Mobility Challenges:

Older adults often experience reduced mobility due to arthritis, muscle weakness, or joint stiffness.

Comprehending these obstacles is imperative when incorporating mobility elements, like toilet safety rails, shower chairs, and elevated toilet seats.

Caregivers and family members can facilitate independence in the bathroom by planning ahead for potential mobility challenges.

Balance and Stability:

The risk of falls increases with age, partly due to diminished balance and stability.

These concerns are addressed by installing safety rails strategically and incorporating non-slip elements like mats and tiles.

Visual Impairments:

Vision changes associated with aging include diminished depth perception and trouble differentiating contrasts.

Incorporating color contrast, adequate general and task lighting, as well as auditory cues, can enhance safety and function.

Cognitive Decline:

Conditions like dementia may affect cognitive abilities.

In the bathroom, this can result in confusion about the purpose of certain fixtures or difficulties following a routine.

Simplifying the layout, using clear signage, and keeping essential items within easy reach are some strategies to improve function with ADL’s like bathing, grooming, and dressing.

Temperature Sensitivity:

The accuracy with which older adults can sense temperature may change. This may raise the possibility of burns or discomfort when taking a bath.

A safer and more pleasurable bathing experience is ensured by modifying water temperature controls and adding anti-scald devices.

Assistance and Independence:

Reaching the ideal balance between providing assistance and encouraging self-sufficiency is essential.

Easy Options for Bathroom Safety: Key Elements of a Safe Bathroom

1. Flooring and Surface Considerations

  • Non-Slip Flooring Options: Exploring various non-slip flooring options, including textured tiles and non-slip mats, will be essential in preventing slips and falls.
  • Bath Mats and Rugs: Bath mats and rugs can be both functional and stylish. This section will advise choosing safe bath mats and rugs, highlighting their function in averting mishaps and boosting the bathroom’s aesthetics.

2. De-cluttering and Getting Organized

Clutter in the bathroom can be a significant hazard, especially for older individuals who may have difficulty navigating tight spaces.

Clearing unnecessary items and organizing toiletries can make the bathroom more accessible.

Use storage solutions like shelves, baskets, and cabinets to keep essential things within easy reach, minimizing the need for excessive bending or stretching.

3. Bathroom Warning System

For older adults, purchasing a bathroom alert system adds additional security.

When these devices notice unusual movements or falls, they can identify them and automatically alert caregivers or emergency services.

Even though they cannot replace human care, they provide additional security, especially when quick assistance is required.

4. Keeping Items within Easy Reach

To minimize the risk of accidents, arrange essential items within easy reach, preferable at chest height.

Store frequently used items such as toiletries, towels, and cleaning supplies at waist level or on lower shelves.

This reduces the need for excessive reaching or bending, promoting a safer bathroom environment.

5. Ensuring Help is “A Button Away”

In emergencies, swift assistance can be a lifesaver. Install an emergency call button or a personal alarm system in the bathroom.

By pressing a button, wearers of these gadgets—which come in the form of wristbands or pendants—can request assistance.

Seniors and their caregivers can rest easy knowing that help is readily available.

6. Adding and Installing Grab Bars, Bath Seats, and Safety Rails

For stability and to prevent falls in the bathroom, grab bars, bath seats, and safety rails must be installed.

Place grab bars strategically close to the bathtub, shower, and toilet. Bath seats can lower the chance of slipping by offering a safe place to sit during bathing tasks.

Safety rails surrounding the shower or bathtub and along the walls are necessary additions that provide extra support for people with mobility issues.

7. Installing a Walk-in Shower and Hand-held Showerhead

Traditional tubs can pose a challenge for older adults.

Consider replacing them with walk-in showers to provide easier access.

Installing a hand-held showerhead, which allows people to take showers while seated comfortably, also adds to the flexibility.  

8. Using a Shower Chair or Transfer Bench

Using a shower chair or transfer bench is a practical solution for those requiring additional support.

These aids offer a stable seating option, allowing individuals to shower comfortably without the fear of slipping.

Ensure the chair or bench is slip-resistant and securely placed in the shower area.

9. Using Anti-Slip Mats and Ditching Throw Rugs

Slippery bathroom floors can be treacherous for older adults. Reduce this risk by placing non-slip mats near the shower, bathtub, and sink areas. Installing non-slip flooring during a renovation is also key.

10. Adjusting Toilet Seat Height

Toileting can become challenging for older individuals, especially if the toilet seat height is not appropriate for the user.

Adjusting the seat height can make it easier for them to sit down and stand up.

Consider installing a comfort height toilet 17″-19″ and also installing swing away grab bars for added safety and assistance with toilet transfers.

12. Adding Color and Night Lights in and Around the Bathroom

Bright colors can improve visibility and create a more inviting atmosphere in the bathroom.

Use contrasting colors for essential elements like grab bars to make them easily distinguishable.

Night lights strategically placed in and around the bathroom offer guidance during night-time visits, reducing the risk of tripping or stumbling.

13. Cleaning Up the Floors of Clutter

For people who have mobility issues in particular, a clear floor is necessary for safe navigation.

Make sure there are no obstructions in the way of walking and remove anything superfluous. The chance of stumbling and falling is greatly decreased by taking this easy action.

14. Hiring a Caregiver

Hiring a caregiver is a viable option for those needing continuous assistance.

Trained caregivers can offer support with bathing, toileting, and other personal care tasks, ensuring the safety and well-being of older adults in the bathroom.

Adding some of these suggested safety measures to your home can transform your bathroom into a safer place for elderly relatives or anyone with mobility and balance issues. 

Reducing your fall risk is the best way to maintain quality of life as we age. Installing bathroom safety equipment does not have to be ugly.

There are plenty of products in the market that do not look institutional or hospital-like. Ponte Giulio, HealthCraft, Moen, and Promenaid are a few examples.

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